Call for Papers for the British Group of Early American Historians’ next conference

BGEAH 2017: “Land and Water: Port Towns, maritime connections, and oceanic spaces of the early modern Atlantic World.” Call for Papers

The British Group of Early American Historians will hold its annual conference at the University of Portsmouth, 31 August – 3 September 2017.

Drawing on Portsmouth’s historic significance as a port town this year’s conference theme is: “Land and Water: Port Towns, maritime connections, and oceanic spaces of the early modern Atlantic World.” Portsmouth was a site of embarkation for those who shaped (or attempted to shape) the political, social, and demographic contours of the Atlantic World: the Roanoke colonists departed from the town in 1587; as did Admiral Nelson for the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. It was a hub of imperial force in the form of the Royal Navy and intimately connected with the imperial conflicts across the globe, and also of the protection and then prevention of the transatlantic slave trade. Yet, as with all port towns, the social space between water and land was a space for contestation and conflict; a space for opportunity and escape. Continue reading

On Remembrance and Resurrection: Commemorating Portsmouth’s (NH) African Burying Ground

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A horse-drawn wagon, bearing coffins holding the remains of the Portsmouth Africans.

“I am the resurrection and the life.” From John 11:25 comes this Bible passage describing Lazarus’s miraculous rise from the death, as he addressed Martha, the sister of Lazarus. For Christians, this lesson is supposed to demonstrate that death is no obstacle to Jesus. This passage figured prominently into Igbo healer Chief Oscar Mokeme’s commemoration of the life of Portsmouth’s Africans, which featured a syncretic blend of Igbo and Christian funeral customs. Continue reading

Guest Post: Reclaiming a Buried Past: Slavery, Memory, Public History, and Portsmouth’s African Burying Ground

Jessica Parr received her PhD from the University of New Hampshire at Durham in 2012. Her research interests are race and religion in the Early Modern British Atlantic. Her first book, Inventing George Whitefield: Race, Revivalism, and the Making of a Religious Icon is forthcoming from the University Press of Mississippi (2015). She currently teaches at the University of New Hampshire at Manchester. This is her second guest post for The Junto.

It was a scene that has been repeated in several American cities. In 2003, during an infrastructure project, 13 coffins containing unidentified human remains were found in Portsmouth, NH. Eight of the remains were exhumed for examination and confirmed as being of African descent, and later as part of a 1705 African Burying Ground, once on the city’s outskirts. As Portsmouth expanded, burying ground was built over and largely forgotten. Five additional sets of remains were found in 2008 during an archaeological dig on the site. Experts believe that 200 or more burials could have taken place in this 1705 African Burying Ground.[1]  Continue reading