When a fellow historian described Elise Guyette's new book as "an extraordinary piece of detective work...the best picture to date of African American life in Vermont," he did not understate its worth. To rescue the story of three generations of Green Mountain State free black farmers, Guyette combed tax and estate records, journals, diaries, and other documents. Discovering Black Vermont is an exemplar of what a first-rate historian can accomplish against daunting odds.
Discovering Black Vermont: African American Farmers in Hinesburgh, Vermont, 1790-1890by Elise A. Guyette
An impressive work of historical recovery, Discovering Black Vermont tells the story of three generations of free blacks trying to build a life and community in northern Vermont in the years following statehood. By piecing together fragments of the history of free blacks in Vermont—tax and estate records, journals, diaries, and the like—the author recovers… See more details below
An impressive work of historical recovery, Discovering Black Vermont tells the story of three generations of free blacks trying to build a life and community in northern Vermont in the years following statehood. By piecing together fragments of the history of free blacks in Vermont—tax and estate records, journals, diaries, and the like—the author recovers what is essentially a lost world, establishing a framework for using primary sources to document a forgotten past. The book is an invaluable resource for those conducting local history research and will serve as inspiration for high school and college students and their teachers.
“Although Vermont was the first state to outlaw adult slavery in its Constitution, in 1777, racism still lurked in the Green Mountains. In delving into the lives of family members, Guyette didn’t have anything as simple as a diary to work with. Instead, she had to rely on the experiences of other black Vermonters, as well as grand lists and pension and probate records, to get a feel for their lives. Other African-Americans in Vermont suffered vandalism, slander and lawsuits from their neighbors. The Clarks and the other Hinesburg families probably were not immune from such strife. Guyette believes that their story is integral to understanding Vermont today.”—Times Argus
“Guyette uncovered a story about American families who, in the wake of a revolution fought under the banner of all men being created equal, strove to turn that rhetoric into reality, and were largely successful. ‘It’s a quintessential Vermont pioneering story, but the people were black.’’—Valley News
"Guyette’s deep research unearthed no direct evidence of prejudice displayed against the black Clark, Langley and Peters families from 1790 to 1890, the period that her book covers. ‘This narrative is not one of oppression,’ she writes. On the contrary, Guyette finds indications of interracial collaboration or full-fledged friendship among blacks and whites on the Hill. She also documents examples of racial justice on the part of local institutions such as the churches and the courts. ” —Seven Days
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What People are saying about this
Harvey Amani Whitfield, author of Blacks on the Border
"By so vividly illuminating the history of a truly forgotten people - African Americans who lived in a small, rural Vermont community - Discovering Black Vermont is a revelation. The black citizens who resided in Hinesburgh, Vermont, from the 1790s until the opening of the twentieth century left a revealing record of struggle, persistence, and achievement that historians since have entirely ignored or forgotten. Relying on deep research, sensible interpretations and lucid prose, Elise A. Guyette brings this long- overlooked history to life in a manner that is as highly instructive to scholars of race relations and African American history as it is revealing to general readers. A gem of a book."
Meet the Author
ELISE A. GUYETTE, Ed.D., is a historian active in efforts to develop Vermont’s diversity curriculum in K–12 schools.
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