C. S. Manegold’s Ten Hills Farm: The Forgotten History of Slavery in the North uses the history of a 600-acre grant of land in modern Medford and Somerville to trace the development of slavery in Massachusetts, from Native American war captives and early African prisoners to the enslaved servants of Isaac Royall, last colonial owner of one part of the farm.
Longfellow National Historic Site and the Friends of the Longfellow House are hosting a book launch for Ten Hills Farm on Wednesday, 3 February, at 6:30 P.M. in the Sherrill Library on the Lesley University/Episcopal Divinity School campus in Cambridge. Manegold will speak and sign books. The event is free; to reserve a space, call 617-876-4491.
Here’s an article about the book from the Somerville Journal. In an opinion essay for the Boston Globe, Manegold wrote:
In the several times I have presented these unpleasant truths in talks at major universities, I have inquired afterwards—who knew this history of slavery in the North? Usually only about three hands go up of 30. And most of these people are professors. Among non-professors the void is even deeper. Students, stumbling on this news, tend to ask with some aggression: “Why didn’t they teach us this?’’To which I think the answer is: because you weren’t paying attention. I heartily doubt that history textbooks on any level leave out the fact that slavery existed in all thirteen original U.S. states before and during the Revolutionary War, or that slavery endured in some northern and/or Union states well into the nineteenth century, or that some people in the antebellum north benefited economically from slavery and supported its continued existence.
What we’re missing is a mental picture of how slavery functioned in northern households, farms, and ports. Movies and histories have given us a crisp and familiar picture of large cotton plantations in the antebellum south (a picture that in turn leaves out a significant amount of the experience of slavery in the antebellum south, but that’s another story). Because we don’t have details about enslavement in the north firmly in our minds, we don’t feel ready for the quiz.
And that’s the benefit of books like Ten Hills Farm, using specific details to make that history more vivid, emotionally rich, and memorable. And I fully understand the need to market a history book as revealing a completely untold or forgotten story.
But when the book’s website asks, “Who, in this century, knows that slavery persisted in Massachusetts longer than it did in Georgia?” I can’t help noting that Boston 1775 pointed that out in 2006.