asakiyume: (feathers on the line)
I was at an informational event on sanctuary cities and the Massachusetts Safe Communities Act this afternoon, and before it started, I was chatting with Cliff McCarthy, a wonderful local historian (I've shared one of his other stories in the past--a tale of poverty, murder, and arson). This time he told me the extremely dramatic story of Angeline Palmer, a free child of color "hired out" by the town of Amherst (Angeline was an orphan and ward of the town) to work for the Shaw family in Belchertown in the late 1830s. "Right in that house over there," Cliff said, pointing out the window to the house next door to where our event was happening.

You can read the full story at Freedom Stories of the Pioneer Valley, Cliff's history website, but here is the outline--and some highlights. Mason Shaw, known as "Squire Shaw," had gotten swept up in western Massachusetts' "mulberry craze"--he was investing in mulberry trees, with the hopes of making a fortune in the silk industry. He was also trying to *sell* mulberry trees--in 1840, he traveled to Georgia to try to interest farmers there in buying them. While there, he sent a letter to his wife, telling her to bring twelve-year-old Angeline south, where Shaw reckoned he could sell her for $600.

will Angeline be sold into slavery?? )

The story was so dramatic, so empowering, and--at least briefly--had a happy ending. There are no pictures of Angeline! I wish there were--as it is, we'll just have to imagine her. Visit Cliff's page on Angeline to see a sketch of Henry Jackson and a photo of the house from which Angeline was rescued.





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