NH Club Notes: Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail joins statewide group

February 01. 2018 9:16PM
The Rev. Robert Thompson, center, president of the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire, is flanked by Portsmouth Historical Society’s president, Ed Mallon, and executive director, Kathleen Soldati. (Raya On Assignment)

PORTSMOUTH —The Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail (PBHT), which previously merged with the Portsmouth Historical Society, has a new home. The walking trail originally designed by historian Valerie Cunningham is now part of a newly formed statewide nonprofit organization.

“I am pleased and proud to announce that the PBHT is now officially owned and operated by the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire,” said Ed Mallon, Portsmouth Historical Society president. “We have been honored to work closely with the trail staff and volunteers for the last five years as its exciting and important programs grew. The stories of the PBHT have changed the lives of countless thousands who discovered four centuries of African-American history in New Hampshire’s only seaport.”

Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire’s slate of directors and officers is led by the Rev. Robert Thompson, president, and supported by 50 volunteers. Its mission is to tell the little-known stories of blacks in New Hampshire. JerriAnne Boggis is executive director of the statewide group, which was launched last year. “Black history is American history,” Boggis said, “and we want to thank the Portsmouth Historical Society for giving us a home when we needed one, which allowed us to grow. We are excited to share the stories of black lives in New Hampshire statewide and beyond.”

The Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail grew out of Cunningham’s decades-long research into the lives of local African-Americans dating back to 1645. What began as a study guide for educators became a self-guided walking tour and, ultimately, a book, “Black Portsmouth” by Cunningham and historian Mark Sammons. To date, 27 Portsmouth sites have been marked with permanent brass plaques that present the city’s history through the eyes of enslaved, freed and contemporary black residents.

Interest in New Hampshire’s “invisible history” inspired the Harriet Wilson project and memorial statue in Milford as well as a campaign to save Rock Rest, a 20th century vacation site for black families in Kittery, Maine. When an ancient “Negro Burying Ground” was revealed beneath the paved streets of Portsmouth in 2003, it was located exactly where a nearby PBHT plaque predicted it would be. In 2016, following a $1.5 million campaign, the remains of 13 Colonial Africans were re-interred at what is today the Portsmouth African Burying Ground Memorial Park.

Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire offers a variety of programs beginning each year in February with the Elinor Williams Hooker Tea Talks. A Juneteenth (Freedom Day, June 19, 1865, marking end of slavery) celebration follows an annual spring symposium. Trained guides are available for trail tours of important African-American sites. Each fall, the Black New England Conference tackles topics of race and diversity. The organization also provides a searchable database and screenings of the award-winning documentary “Shadows Fall North.”

For more details, visit www.blackheritagetrailnh.org, email blackheritage-trailofnh@gmail.com. For tours, call 380-1231 or leave a message at (617) 539-6886.

Audubon birding team wins Townie Award

RYE — N.H. Audubon’s birding team, Twitchers in the Rye, competed in the “Super Bowl of Birding” last week, winning a newly created Townie Award for teams that bird in just one municipality.

This was the team’s 10th year of competing in the event run by the Massachusetts Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center. The competition, which takes place in Rockingham County and in Essex County in Massachusetts, involves looking for as many bird species as possible between 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. Each species has a point value based on rarity, with a 5-point maximum.

Team members Susan Wrisley, Jenna Pettipas, Kathryn Frieden and captain Becky Suomala saw 59 species and earned 104 points. The team says finding three species of owls was a highlight, including a Barred Owl that flew in silently as Suomala imitated the tooting of a Northern Saw-whet Owl. A Pine Warbler, usually seen only in warmer weather, was one of their 4-point birds. The Twitchers raised more than $2,500 for bird conservation. The team also raises money for two N.H. Audubon conservation programs. For more about the Twitchers or to donate, go to nhbirdrecords.org/twitchers-rye. For more about N.H. Audubon, call 224-9909 or visit www.nhaudubon.org.

Part of restaurant sales to benefit Meredith Lions

MEREDITH — The Mug Restaurant in West Center Harbor is hosting Meredith Lions Day on Friday, Feb. 9.

Ten percent of all sales from the 11 a.m. opening until the 9 p.m. closing will go to the Meredith Lions Club. This includes all take-out orders for the day. To place an order, call 279-8596.

Club members will be on hand selling tickets for two separate raffle baskets, one filled with chocolates and the other with lottery tickets.

Lions International is the largest service organization in the world with more than 1.4 million members. The 60-year-old Meredith club covers Meredith, Center Harbor and Holderness and assists with eyeglasses and hearing aids and also awards four scholarships each year to students in the Inter-Lakes school district. Members also are getting ready for a second father/daughter dance in March.

For more details, email Lions Club member Marie at keylion03@gmail.com.

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