In 1995 I published my first book 'Chains Unbound: Slave Emancipations in Greenwich, Connecticut.' My original intention was for it to be used as an educational resource. This is an online companion site that I've created, especially for those of you utilizing online resources and smartphones. I've also included additional items and news articles not found in the 1995 edition. Jeffrey Bingham Mead, Historian and Author. October 13, 2014.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Introduction (1995 Printed Edition)

by Jeffrey Bingham Mead

Since Major Daniel Merritt Mead wrote The History of the Town of Greenwich in 1857 there have been many histories written about this town. These chronicles have gone into detail on various themes and subjects. 

Chains Unbound: Slave Emancipations in Greenwich, Connecticut is a work aimed at offering the most inclusive historical information available on the emancipation of slaves during the latter 18th and 19th centuries in Greenwich. 

My first encounter with this matter came during my graduate work in secondary-level education at Manhattanville College. With the valuable assistance of the archival staff of the Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich I was able to bring in copies of original manumission deeds and other materials for the young learners I worked with. This stirred a high degree of interest that proved inspiring. 

A cousin of my grandfather has in her possession a fine picture of one of our ancestral homesteads in Greenwich. The Jabez Mead House was built circa 1840. The farm included much of the area called Milbrook today. The picture is on woven paper. 

The Jabez Mead House,Greenwich, Connecticut. Formerly located at the southwest corner of East Putnam Avenue and Indian Field Road. Attributed to Hester Bush Mead, daughter of emancipated slave and freedwoman Candice Bush. (Formerly Alice Mead Warren, now in the collections of the Greenwich Historical Society.) 

She told me that her mother said it was painted by a black woman who was the daughter of slaves in Greenwich. The story goes further, stating that she married a black man with the Mead surname. The painting is unsigned, but we believe the artist was Hester Bush Mead, the daughter of emancipated slave and freedwoman Candice Bush.

This is a later photograph of the Jabez Mead House. (Not included in the 1995 printed edition) 

A piece I wrote for the Greenwich Time which appeared on September 19, 1993 attracted positive interest from many readers. A similar piece appeared on May 8, 1994. It briefly discussed slavery and emancipation. The response it received from readers convinced me to compile and publish the information which is found here. 

In The Protestant Church, by Reverend John Calvin Goddard, the author and I agree that "History is to be judged on the basis of the time.” I wish to make it clear that no effort is made to exonerate or put on trial those few in Greenwich who held slaves. It must be resoundingly affirmed and declared that slavery in all its forms, justifications and manifestations was wrong. It is to be condemned as cruel, tragic and immoral. It demeaned both slave and master and had a corrupting impact on those who supported it.

Emancipation, rather than the institution of slavery, is the primary focus of this book. I offer the highest praise to those from Greenwich's past who spearheaded the path toward emancipation and total abolition of slavery. These citizens were moved by the high  minded moral convictions stemming from a societal resurgence of religious se Revolution have defended their freedom.

This book contains the only collection of transcripts of manumission deeds from Greenwich town hall records. They are organized in chronological order and have been reproduced line-by-line as precisely as possible. Each is identified by name of slave, slave owner,  volume and page number.  The dates the deeds were signed and  recorded are also included. 

Only one certificate, for the slave Cuff freed by a Quaker named Robert Field in 1776, was transcribed from a photocopy found in the archives of the Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich. For unknown reasons this was not recorded in the bound volumes in the Greenwich town clerk's records.

Shubal Brush's oratory remarks strengthened the cause for the abolition of slavery. Others like Ard Reynolds, Josiah Wilcox, Deacon Silas Hervey Mead of the North Greenwich Congregational Church, and even missionary brethren such as Amos Starr Cooke in Hawaii, wrote, spoke and acted passionately for liberty. 

Some in Greenwich risked arrest by harboring fugitives, too. Greenwich soldiers fought with valor in the Civil War for the end of slavery and for a new and more perfect union. Some paid the ultimate price. These people are among my heroes. Freedmen and freedwomen lived side-by-side in a spirit of community throughout Greenwich. They started families in a town enriched by their freedom. Emancipation released all citizens from the sins of slavery. 

It is to all of them and to their legacies that this book is dedicated. This journey through time and events has illuminated my knowledge of Greenwich's history and surpassed my expectations. I hope this shall be the case with readers in the latter 20th century and those of generations to come. 

No comments:

Post a Comment