Canaan, Peterborough to Host African American History Quilt Exhibit

Sep 5, 2018

In the western New Hampshire town of Canaan, there's a plot of land where Noyes Academy once stood.

Incorporated in 1834, Noyes Academy was the first school in the country to admit both black and white men and women for education above the grammar school level. But it wasn't open for long. 

In 1835, a group of white townspeople conspired to pull the school from its foundation. Town historian Donna Dunkerton explains.

"They got 95 yoke of oxen and got them all lined up and approached the building up there. The first day they got it hauled into the road with the skids."

The black students went into hiding or fled Canaan as the mob continued its work. The chain they used to drag the school broke, so they resumed with a repaired chain the following day, dragging the school to the town common, where it was eventually burned.

In 1839, townspeople built a new school. These days a historical marker stands along Canaan Street, marking where Noyes Academy once stood. And across the street from that marker, a different kind of remembrance is taking place.

At the Canaan Street Meeting House, where the white townspeople once plotted to pull the school down, an exhibition of quilts commemorates notable figures and milestones in African American History. It's called "And Still We Rise."

The quilts were created by the Women of Color Quilters Network, and this is their first visit to New England. The Mariposa Museum in Peterborough is coordinating the exhibit. I met the museum's executive director, Karla Hostetler among the quilts at the Canaan Street Meeting House.

The exhibit, called "And Still We Rise, "is on display at both the Canaan Street Meeting House and the Mariposa Museum in Peterborough until October 14th.