J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Updates to Past Entries

Connecticut saw major developments last week on two news stories that I've written about.

Map thief E. Forbes Smiley was sentenced to three and a half years in prison. His sentence was shorter than it could have been since he helped authorites locate most of the maps he admitted to stealing.

In Greenwich, the Chickahominy Neighborhood Association decided unanimously that James Daugherty's WPA mural about Israel Putnam should stay in the town library instead of being returned to an elementary school. The New York Times coverage added a new wrinkle: intraurban politics.

Ms. Rau [the school principal] also said the school, which has the highest minority population in a predominantly white district, could not endorse a painting that cast Indians in a negative light.

While many parents agreed with the principal, other residents felt that historic value should trump efforts to protect the children.

“This is part of our history,” said Jill Chessman, who stopped Thursday to look at the painting with her 3-year-old son, Jimmy. “I don’t think we should shield it from our children.” [Ms. Chessman was exposing her child to the mural at its new permanent home in Greenwich's public library, where the painting is no doubt much more accessible to a three-year-old than it would be hung high above a school gym.]

Members of the Chickahominy Neighborhood Association in this relatively low-income section of town where the Hamilton Avenue School and the town dump are situated, were also reluctant to part with it. . . . Sylvester Pecora Sr., who has lived in the neighborhood for 46 years and is head of the neighborhood association, said Chickahominy has long been a forgotten, relatively powerless part of town.

“We want what’s ours,” Mr. Pecora said. “With the mural, they thought they were going to take it. We made sure that they promised to give it back.”
Boston 1775 has been Google's top response to a search for "Putnam mural," so a lot of people got to see my remarks on the matter. Alas, some of the links promised in that entry, including one to an image of the painting itself, have gone dead.

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