"In Lives of Consequence, Patricia Wall has forever destroyed the old myth that there were 'just a few' persons of color living in colonial Maine. In the towns of old Kittery and Berwick alone, her in-depth study finds nearly 500 Black, Indian, and mixed race individuals--both enslaved and free--from 1645 to statehood in 1820. Despite many self-serving myths their lives were no less harsh and their neighbors no less racist than other parts of the country. This well researched book is a significant rewriting of local history and a major addition to the study of African and African-Americans in Maine. A much needed corrective to antiquarian histories of Maine towns that virtually ignored this population altogether, it could be a model for similar local studies all over New England"--Provided by publisher.
Lives of Consequence is a book on slavery in Maine that I would classify as micro-history. Slavery was prevalent here, even after the founding of the United States in 1789. The book is largely evidence based from combing through records so there are not many lengthy stories, or at least beyond a couple of paragraphs or so. Most of the slave stories have long been lost to history.
The author, Patricia Wall, did a great deal of research for this book on slaves in Kittery Maine, then part of Massachusetts. She documents 443 slaves (mainly African slaves, mulattoes, and some Native Americans) from the mid 17th century until the 1830s. The author estimates that there were probably in excess of a 1,000 slaves who once loved in the area. The estimate is reasonable since there is no consistent documentation detailing slaveholdings that are in the public domain beyond estate dispersals and census data in the late 18th century and military engagements. This area of Massachusetts was not that heavily populated so the slave population hovered near 10% for many decades and slaves were a vital part of society including the militias.
Although many Quakers lived in Massachusetts and the church even passed regulations banning slaveowners from attending their church, slavery was not officially abolished in Massachusetts until the Civil War.
As much of this type of history goes, the reading can be dry in spots. It requires a little imagination to piece together what life was like for the slaves in Kittery but the book does a good job of filling in the holes.
This book is a must read for anyone looking for more information on the history of enslaved and free people of color living in the Seacoast. Whilst the books focuses on Maine, many NH communities are included as well.