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Concord’s Black Heritage & Abolitionists’ Trail

by Polly Attwood, On behalf of the Drinking Gourd Committee

Our `Black Heritage and Abolitionists’ Trail’ committee now has a name – `The Drinking Gourd Project Committee’. The name comes from the name for the Big Dipper, the constellation that points to the North Star, showing the way north to freedom for fugitive slaves. In some places, especially in the south, (Alabama to Kentucky, specifically) the song by the same name was the signal for the route north.

The project includes the following elements:

  1. identifying and marking a series of `clusters’ of sig- nificant black heritage or abolitionist sites in Concord;

  2. reissuing a book on the black history in Concord, and adding to it the social context and local abolition- ist activity, making the book available to schools and the wider community. (This is possible by courtesy of Janet Jones, Barbara Elliott and Sandra Petrulionis);

  3. publishing tri-fold guides to the sites, and making them available at various locations – Visitors’ Center, libraries, Town House, Concord Museum, Orchard House, Buttrick Mansion, etc.;

  4. detailing the sites and their stories on the C-CHRC website (check it out!;

  5. assisting in the training of the Town Guides (through Adult and Community Education);

  6. Fundraising – all this will cost money! If you would like to donate to the furtherance of this project, we would be delighted!

One of the results of our delving into this project is this: Mary Rice was a stationmaster on the Underground Railroad, and often welcomed, fed and hid fugitives, and helped them on their way north. She was also a teacher, with an Infant School held in the Wrights Tavern. She wrote a letter to Abraham Lincoln, begging him to outlaw the enslavement of children – then she gathered 165 signatures of Concord children, and sent the petition to the President.

Lincoln replied, and his actual letter is in our Concord Main Library. We have received permission to make copies of the letter, hopefully with the signatures of all those children, and plan to frame them with an explanation attached, and present them as gifts to local schools. We hope these gifts will be a powerful reminder to children of their ability to effect change in their world. We are indebted to the Concord Public Library for allowing us the privilege of copying the letter.

Again, this costs money; we are looking for some generous souls to subsidize this effort – if you feel able to help, a check made out to Concord-Carlisle Human Rights Council, and sent to C-CHRC, Box 744, Concord, MA 01742, with `Lincoln letter’ in the memo line would be much appreciated.

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