African American resources are often found within larger collections of New England family papers. One extraordinary set of scrapbooks found in the NEHGS manuscript collections documents the missionary work that Capt. George W. Lane (d. 1912) and his family provided to the people of Malaga Island, Maine.. It is a meticulously constructed and labeled account of Capt. Lane, Mrs. Lane' & their daughter's work among a neglected people of Malaga Island. (edited, compiled, and illustrated by Fred H. C. Woolley, Sept. 1906-Aug./Sept. 1907).
The history of the African American settlement at Malaga island, Maine, is a tale of a struggling but viable community treated dishonorably by government and commercial interests. Malaga island is located near the mouth of the New Meadows River, close to Phippsburg, Maine. Although some sources suggest that Malaga was first settled in approximately 1720 by Will Black, an African frontiersman, it is certain that adjacent Horse Island was bought by former slave Benjamin Darling in 1794, who subsequently settled with others of African descent on Malaga Island. The African American community on Malaga was poor, as were many who depended on coastal Maine's waters for sustenance in the nineteenth century. Although isolated, its residents participated in larger national events. William Johnson, who married Darling's great-granddaughter, served in the 54th Massachusetts Colored Regiment in the Civil War.
At the turn of the century, as Maine's coast was developing into a vacation and tourist destination, mainlanders and government officials became concerned about "their ragtag island neighbors some white, some black, many of mixed blood - living in make-do dwellings." While Capt. Lane and his family worked to bring a school and religious instruction to this small community, the counties and the state launched a campaign to remove and institutionalize the island residents. Ironically, the charitable attention the Malagites received may have indirectly led to the forcible removal of 45 people from the Malaga island from 1911-1912. Most of the houses were razed. many of the residents were put in a
mental institution (although not mentally ill) and the island graveyard was dug up and moved to the same institution. Since that time no one has lived on the island.
The scrapbook of Capt. Lane's work contains very rare and now poignant photographs of the Malagites only a few years before their removal. Carefully labeled pictures of the home of Mr. McKinney, the school room in his house, and the students may help African American family history researchers trace these lost Malagites families. Capt. Lane's scrapbooks provide vivid evidence of the community of powerless peoples, forcibly evicted in 1912 by governmental fiat. To-date the Governor of Maine has not responded to AAHGS-NE's request for an official apology.
Nine members of the society; (Mabelle Barnette, Edwin Costa, Bob Greene, Willard & Vivian Johnson, Louise Myers, Enid Rocha, Roland Stead and Gerald Talbot) attended the, "Africana Women in Maine," conference held Sept. 20, 2002 at the University of Southern Maine, Portland campus. Prof. Maureen Elgersman Lee, assistant professor of history & faculty scholar for the African-American Archives of Maine, Univ. of Southern Maine Library, recognized the AAHGS-NE members in attendance.
Because of a prior commitment for a lecture and guided tour at the Massachusetts State Archives the next day it was unfortunate that the entire chapter could not attend the Maine conference as we had the previous year. Prof. Elgersman-Lee expressed the wish to continue to cultivate a relationship with the New England chapter of AAHGS . Most felt that Lorraine Johnson-Coleman, the keynote speaker, who spoke on the theme "African-American Women and the Making of U. S, History" was dynamite.
Amid the excruciating stops and starts of a technical rehearsal, as lights were being adjusted and missing actors located and musical cues played over and over, the director George C. Wolfe paused to take in the view. Climbing out of the darkness of the orchestra, he mounted a tiny staircase and planted himself at center stage of one of the most celebrated theaters in the world. the Apollo.
"Come and take a look up here." Mr. Wolfe said to a visitor as he stared wide-eyed out into the expanse of the 89 year-old Harlem landmark. "Isn't it fabulous? Isn't it a perfect house?"
It is the house that Ella built. And the Duke and the Count and Sarah Vaughan and Pearl Bailey and Moms Mabley and James Brown and Steve Wonder. And now, fittingly, Mr. Wolfe, who is also producer of the Joseph Papp Public Theater, was in the house. he had come uptown on a mission: to write and direct an original musical about Harlem, in Harlem, a show that would give the Apollo a Broadway kind of swagger ---- and maybe, too, a vast new audience.
The idea behind "Harlem Song," a 90-minute production that through music and dance tells the story of the artistic and social changes that have taken place in Harlem over the past century, is revolutionary for the theater. Mr. Wolfe is relying on his team from two of his Broadway hits, "Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk" and "Jelly's Last Jam". How often have Broadway writers, composers and designers developed a big, brash musical for someplace other than Broadway?
The scale of the $4 million musical, which began performances at the Apollo theater on Saturday July 6, 2002., is also revolutionary for Harlem. Opening as the theater completes a $13 million makeover, and at a time of robust expectation for the economic and cultural revitalization of the neighborhood, the musical has become a symbol of rebirth.
A consortium of Harlem institutions, from the Harlem Boys Choir to the Dance Theater of Harlem, has agreed to cross-promote "Harlem Song" with their own programs. Tour groups are adding the musical to their Manhattan packages. Even celebrities with an
interest in Harlem's artistic invigoration have invested
in the show or are lending their voices in support.
"I cannot recall since the 1930's an attempt like this being made," declared Harry Belafonte, who has enlisted as an ambassador for the show to the schools. "When the leading black director in America says he wants to reach into his wealth of knowledge and artistry, trying to establish a rhythm with this community, then we have to pull out all the stops to help."
"Harlem Song" is a money-making enterprise, of course. Its producing team includes concert promoters, Broadway producers, the actress Whoopi Goldberg and the musician Herb Alpert. But it arrives at a significant moment in the redevelopment of Harlem, a process that has been going on for a decade or more. Block after block of brownstones are being reclaimed, and mainstream chains like Starbucks and Old Navy have moved in. Bill Clinton has an office there.
Plans are being discussed for other retail and entertainment complexes; jazz festivals and multi-screen movie theaters have sprung up, and tourists from Europe and Japan are hopping off subways and tour buses in ever growing numbers to sample gospel services and soul food.
"From the streets being torn up and new technology being placed underground, to the buildings that were old and abandoned being opened up, to people looking for new loft space, I think it's all dramatic and very real," said Patricia Cruz, executive director of Aaron Davis Hall, a performing arts center on the campus of the City College of New York between 133rd and 135th Streets.
Aaron Davis Hall is one of nine members of the Harlem Strategies Cultural Collaborative, the consortium that is working with the musical. In return, the umbrella group receives $1 from each ticket sold. To Ms. Cruz, however, the show's biggest contribution to the community may be as a messenger to the world, a showcase for the artistic richness of Harlem. It is almost as if the production itself were an agent for urban renewal.
"We have been enduring a bad rap for too long a time, "Ms. Cruz said. "Unfortunately, culture, and cultures, are very much put in the context of real estate and economic value. And we have struggled for a long time to gain recognition for what organizations and individuals here have done. We saw "Harlem Song' as a production that will enable people to come up here, and see."
Mr. Wolfe is staging the production on a spare, bi-level set. In a series of musical numbers that proceed chronologically, the 14-member cast, which includes Broadway veterans like B. J. Crosby and new comers like David St. Louis and Queen Esther, tells the intertwining stories of a culture's contributions and a community's struggle, from the Jazz Age to the civil rights era. Overhead are a pair of screens onto which vintage photos are projected. Between numbers, the screens are used for 'testimonials" --- filmed interviews with longtime Harlem residents, a la the work of the documentary film-maker Ken Burns.
"Harlem Song" was born on the lips of a businessman, John Schreiber, a longtime rock promoter, a co-founder of the Toyota Comedy Festival and sometime Broadway producer, had just produced a series on VH-1, "Hard rock Live," when he fell into a conversation with David Goodman, an executive from 'Warner Brothers' television division.
Delandis McCalm, Randy Andre Davis, Queen Esther, Gabriel Croom & Keith Thomas
Cast of "Harlem Song"
Mr. Goodman mentioned the involvement of AOL Time Warner, as parent company, in rehabilitating the Apollo Theater.
"He said, 'Do you see what is going on uptown with Time Warner being involved with the Apollo?" Mr. Schreiber said, recalling his talk with Mr. Goodman. "I said, 'Wouldn't it be great to do something at the Apollo that could leverage all this activity?"
Mr. Goodman eventually became a partner of Mr. Schreiber in the project. AOL Time Warner's chief
executive, Richard D. Parsons, heads the board of the Apollo Theater Foundation, and the company, along with other major corporations, has taken a leading role in supporting the theater, which publicly owned, as it tries to recover from long-standing financial problems.
The Apollo was in desperate need of improvements. "We've made a number of aesthetic enhancements, "said David D. Rodriguez, executive director of the foundation, which operates the theater. Holes in the walls were repaired, lighting and audio systems replaced and new carpeting and upholstery installed. Work is now being done on the facade.
After Mr. Schreiber made his pitch, the Apollo, accustomed to short engagements, took an unusual step: it agreed to open-ended one. But it stipulated that the show would have to confine a seven-performance schedule to three days a week: Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. (The producers say their intention is to run the show until December 31st, and that potentially it could run for years.)
The editor acquired these records through a Cornell Univ. web site
( http://cdl.library.cornell.edu) brought to his attention by Lorraine Miller, AAHGS-NE.
The following narrative contains excerpts of the official records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. They were published under the direction of the Hon. Paul Morton, Secretary of the Navy by Mr. Charles W. Stewart, Superintendent Library & Naval War Records by the authority of an Act of Congress approved July 31, 1894. These records pertain to the activities of a military detachment known as the "West Gulf Blockading Squadron" from July 15, 1862, to March 14, 1863.
After the close of the Civil War, the War Department, Adjutant General's office in the Union Army was detailed to correspond with its counterpart in the Confederate Army to facilitate the exchange of prisoners-of-war. A similar office was delegated to tour the defeated Southern states to ensure that all slaves were indeed set free in accordance with the terms of Lincoln's "Emancipation Proclamation". The celebration known as "Juneteenth' commemorates the date in June 1865 when the union general assigned to announce that slavery was abolished, finally reached his last stop in Houston, Texas.
These records document that one of editor's and Suzanne R. Green's, great-great grandmother's, grandsons Charles F. Fairfax was taken prisoner-of-war and enslaved during the Civil War. Our ancestor Margaret Revaleon already had one of her sons Albert L. Revaleon volunteer for the 55th Mass infantry. But when she heard that a young Boston doctor was enlisting in the Union Army, she
encouraged another one of her sons Charles to volunteer to assist the doctor because she felt he could acquire valuable knowledge of medical practice he could use after the war.
"Washington D. C.., June 5, 1865; Maj. Gen. E. R. S. Canby, Commanding, New Orleans, La.
"General: I respectfully ask your attention to the following statement: When the expedition to Sabine River (set on foot by General Banks) was defeated there were captured, of the Forty-Second Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers, two colored boys, as I suppose, nearly grown, who were subsequently sold into slavery at Houston, Tex.. Their names were Charles Fairfax Revaleon & Charles Gerrish. Amos. I beg to urge that every possible effort may be made to discover the whereabouts of these boys with a view to their recovery and their safe return to Boston, where they belong.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. A. Hitchcock, Major General of Volunteers., Commissioner for Exchange of Prisoners".
A response to this message soon followed. A copy was addressed to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Executive Dept., Boston, dated June 7, 1865.
Maj. Gen. E. A. Hitchcock, Agent & Com. of Exchange of prisoners, Washington, D. C.
General: In addition to the statements in my letter of the 2d instant in the matter of the boys, Charles Fairfax Revaleon and Charles Gerrish Amos, captured in Texas with a portion of the Forty-Second Massachusetts regiment, I have the honor to state that I am to-day informed by Mrs. Revaleon that the only intelligence that she has received concerning her son is from one Hersey, a private in the Forty-second, who told her on his return that her son was sent to Houston and was living with a Judge Wheelcock. She was told by another person that both the boys, who are related, were together in the prison at Galveston as slaves of the keeper of the prison. The relatives of these boys are very respectable people, and are well known in their occupation to very many of our best citizens.
His Excellency the Governor directs me to thank you for your attention to this matter and to express his hope that no effort will be spared to recover them. I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant, H. Ware, Major & Acting Military Secretary, Office Commissioner of Exchange,
A copy of the within was sent to General Canby June 12, 1865, with an endorsement by Gen. Hitchcock referring the same to Gen. Canby for consideration, with note from General Hitchcock of 5th instant,
The list of officers of the Forty-second Massachusetts Volunteers and their servants includes: Isaac S. Burrell, colonel; Ariel J. Cummings, surgeon; Alfred N. Proctor, captain; George Sherive, captain; Cyrus Savage, captain; Thaddeus H. Newcomb, lieutenant; William H. Cowdin, lieutenant; Charles G. Amos, servant, colored (not enlisted); Charles F. Revaleon, servant, colored (not enlisted).
The following is an unofficial statement by Colonel Burrell describing the surrender of a portion of the Forty-second Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers at Galveston, Tex. to Confederate forces under the command of Major-General J. B. Magruder.
"After the steamer Harriet Lane had raised the white flag in token of surrender the white flag was also raised by the Forty-second Regiment by order of the colonel commanding; but the fire continuing for ten or fifteen minutes from the wharf and the brick building above Kuhn's Wharf, where the Forty-second Regiment was stationed, when Brigadier-General Scurry came down to Kuhn's Wharf and demanded the unconditional surrender of the troops on the wharf the firing ceased and was not resumed so far as the wharf is concerned."
"The surrender was made immediately and the battle terminated so far as the Forty-second Regiment was concerned. Between the time the white flag was raised on the wharf and the cessation of the firing only one man was wounded and none killed."
This statement is made in justice to Brigadier-General Scurry, who, by his gentlemanly conduct and uniform kindness to officers and privates, is entitled to the grateful remembrance of the whole command. We believe that the firing after the white flag was raised was unknown to him and against his will or orders."
Somewhat later the Confederate command in New Orleans replied to General Hitchcock attempting to absolve himself from any responsibility for the enslavement of the prisoners-of-war.
"Headquarters Department of the Gulf, New Orleans, La. June 14, 1865.
Maj. Gen., E. A. Hitchcock, Commissioner for the Exchange of Prisoners, Washington, D. C.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of the 5th instant relating to two colored boys who accompanied the Forty-second Massachusetts Volunteers from Boston, were captured during the expedition to the Sabine River in the Spring of 1864, and subsequently sold into slavery at Houston, Tex. In my stipulations for exchange with the insurgents west of the Mississippi I have always made it a rule to require that persons of this character should be regarded as prisoners of war, and I know of no individual cases in which this has been complied with. .."
General Hitchcock writes back to the Governor of Massachusetts to ensure him that his office will exert every effort to find 'colored' boys who were captured and enslaved but he has unfortunately misplaced the correspondence containing their names.
" ... colored boys captured and sold into slavery belonging to Boston. A statement of the facts in the case reached me with Your Excellency's endorsement soon after the facts became known, but at that time it was found impossible to do anything for the relief of the two boys. As the door seems now open for an inquiry, I should be most happy to be instrumental in procuring the release of the boys; to this end I have caused a search to be made among my papers for the statement of the case, and not finding it I have written to the agent of exchange, on the supposition that I may have forwarded the statement for some action on his part. Meantime I respectfully call your attention to the matter, in the hope that you may have some record or some means by which the names of the boys may be known and sent to me, that I may make the proper effort, through our local commander in Texas, to find the said boys. The mother of the boys is said to be a respectable colored woman of the City of Boston.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant, E. A. Hitchcock, Maj. Gen. of Vols. and Commissioner for the Exchange of Prisoners.
The following month Gen. Hitchcock receives word from the Governor's office of Amos and Revaleon's successful emancipation and safe return to Boston. Evidently rather than being forced to explain the illegal enslavement of colored troops taken prisoner-of-war, the South found the young men, convinced their slave master to free them and sent them back home without any further comment.
Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Executive Dept., Boston, July 11, 1865.
Maj. Gen. E. A. Hitchcock, Commissioner of Exchange, Washington, D. C.
General: I have the honor to inform you that the two colored boys attached to the Forty-second Massachusetts, and sold in Texas, have returned in safety to Massachusetts since my letters to you of the 2d and 7th of June.
I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant, H. Ware, Major & Assistant Adjutant General, Private Secretary.
Thus concludes the official war correspondence dealing with the Civil War capture, enslavement and release of Charles G. Amos and Charles F.. Revaleon.
In Frank Dorman's "Twenty Families of Color in Massachusetts" we find that Charles F. Revaleon bears his father's full name, i.e. he was a junior. He was born January 1, 1845, hence about eighteen when he was captured and enslaved in Texas His mother's name was Dorcas A. Ames which leads one to believe that the other prisoner-of-war, Charles G. Amos could have been Charles F.. Revaleon's cousin. The 1900 federal census indicates that Charles F.. Revaleon became married in 1880 to Janet/Jennie Caley who was born in England in January 1853 and became a naturalized citizen the same year.
Charles F. Revaleon was living with his mother in Cambridge in 1870 after the Civil War. He worked there as barber. After his marriage, he and his family lived on Carver Street in Boston, where he continued in the barbering profession. It is possible that he and Jennie were separated before his death, because in the 1900 federal census they have her living on Wait Street in Boston with her daughter. Charles lived a long life. He eventually died in Boston on November 30, 1910.
The 'respectable colored woman" mentioned in the above narrative we discover from Frank Dorman's book, was Margaret Revaleon, the editor's great, great, great-grandmother, and Suzanne R. Green's AAHGS-NE, great, great grandmother.. Margaret Revaleon was born about 1781 to Alexander and Margaret De Mack. She had eleven children and raised many of her grandchildren. She died of "old age" in Medford, Mass. on March 6, 1867 after the Civil War. Although a black woman she was influential enough in 1865 to partition H. Ware in the Governor's office to write the Commissioner of
Prisoner Exchange in the War Department in Washington D. C. to force the release of her enslaved grandson and grand-nephew.
Title: Black Bostonians - Family Life & Community Struggle in the Antebellum North
Authors: James Oliver Horton & Lois E. Horton
Publisher: Holmes & Meier - New York , London
ISBN 0-8419-1380-3 (pbk.)
Title: African-Americans in Boston:
More than 350 Years
Author: Robert C. Hayden,
Forward by Joyce Ferriabough
Publisher: Trustees of the Boston Public Library
Title: Africans-Americans in Pennsylvania
- a History and Guide -
Authors: Charles L. Blockson
Publisher: Black Classic Press, Baltimore, MD
ISBN 0-933121-85-7 (pbk.)
Title: The Sweet Hell Inside- a Family History -
Author: Edward Ball
Publisher: William Morrow, An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, New York, NY
Title: W. E. B. DuBois -The Fight for Equality & the American Century, 1919-1963 -
Author: David Levering Lewis
Publisher: A John MacRae/ Owl Book,
Henry Holt & Co, -New York, NY
Title: Lay My Burden Down -
Unraveling Suicide & Mental Health Crisis among African-Americans -
Authors: Alvin F. Poussaint, M. D.,
& Amy Alexander
Publisher: Beacon Press Boston, MA
Title: Technology and the Dream -Reflections on the Black Experience at MIT, 1941-1999
Author: Clarence G. Williams
Publisher: MIT Press, Cambridge, MA
Title: The Life of Langston Hughes
-Vol. II: 1941-1967 I Dreamed A World -
Author: Arnold Rampersad
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press, New York, NY
ISBN 0-19-514643-3 (pbk.)
Date: Saturday 11AM, October 19, 2002
Speaker: Catherine Jones
Topic: Home to Harlem,
A New Perspective of the
A Jamaican VisitorTells her Story
Place: Bedford Town Center
Conference Room 204
Date: Saturday 11AM, Nov. 16, 2002
Speaker: Joy Peach
Place: Bedford Town Center
Conference Room 204
Date: Saturday 11AM, Dec. 21, 2002
Speakers: AAHGS Nat'l Conf. Attendees
Topic: Impressions, Gleanings, &
thoughts from AAHGS Annual
Place: Bedford Town Center
Conference Room 204
New England Chapter Officers
President, Irving R. Smith
Vice President, Joan Qualls Harris
Corresponding Secretary, Roland F. Stead
Recording Secretary, Hazel C. Stamps
Treasurer, Jacqueline Davis
Membership Chairperson, Sonia Bontemps
Parliamentarian, Brenda McKinley
Editor of the Newsletter, Irving R. Smith
AAHGS New England News will be published quarterly in October, January, April and July
Submissions to AAHGS New England News are welcomed. Articles will be printed at the editor's discretion and may be edited without advance notice to the author. Articles and other submissions must be received on or before the deadlines listed below:
Fall - Sept.15th; Winter - Dec.15th
Spring - March 15th; Summer - June 15th
Articles and inquiries may be mailed to:
Irving R. Smith, 43 Burlington Road,
Bedford, MA 01730 or
E-Mailed to; IrvRevallion@aol.com