Civics 101: Past Lives, Present Learnings
What can a graveyard tell you about civics, race, history, and memory? A new video series from New Hampshire Public Radio’s Civics 101 podcast and The Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire (BHTNH) explores New Hampshire’s Black history through the stories of local graveyards.
The Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire (BHTNH) promotes awareness and appreciation of African American history and life in order to build more inclusive communities. Beginning in May 2020, BHTNH staff worked with the team at Civics 101 to produce a series of five short, 10-20 minute videos. The short features are a way to educate and reach new audiences with the surprising stories about the Black experience in New Hampshire that can be gleaned through local graveyards and cemeteries. Educators, students, and anyone interested in history will be able to see the videos online, starting Monday, February 8 at the Civics 101 website. Videos will also be distributed throughout the month at the BHTNH website.
“We hope that by exploring American history in a unique way – through the stories told and untold in cemeteries – we can give students the tools to ask important questions about their own communities,” says Erika Janik, Executive Producer of Civics 101 at NHPR.
Graveyards and cemeteries exist in communities throughout the country. They hold the history of the people and communities, and make for excellent and accessible historical resources for students to ask questions, such as:
- Who is buried here - and who is not?
- Why are some people buried prominently while others are hidden from view?
- What clues can we learn about a person from a tombstone?
- How have we remembered - or not remembered - our dead?
The video series features the stories of Ona Judge, an enslaved woman who escaped from Founding Father George Washington and evaded capture by the President for the rest of her life; Sampson Battis, a Revolutionary War veteran who passed his legacy of freedom on to his many progeny; and George Blanchard, a Revolutionary War veteran and successful veterinarian who played a vital role in his community. All three were born enslaved and found their freedom by ingenuity, bravery and determination. Their resting places serve as revealing testaments to the remarkable lives they lived.
Videos highlight sites in Canterbury, Milford, and Greenland, New Hampshire. The stories can be found at civics101podcast.org and on the Civics 101 YouTube channel.
“Although we know a cemetery as a place that commemorates the lives of the dead, it is also a place for the living. Every gravestone has a story to tell, even the unmarked, covered-over, built-upon graves tell us something about our society,” said JerriAnne Boggis, executive director of the Black History Trail of NH. “We are very excited about this partnership with NHPR for it allows us to shed light on the stories of many of New Hampshire’s early Black citizens. And we hope teachers and students will see this program as an opportunity to unearth Black history in their own towns.”
Black History Month continues to be commemorated in New Hampshire through online discussions, virtual events and the outreach efforts of various organizations. NHPR’s weekday talk show The Exchange will devote the Monday, February 8 episode to a discussion about the video project and the legacy and historical significance of burial sites and graves on our African American history both in the U.S. and in New Hampshire. During the program, host Laura Knoy and guests will discuss the historical treatment of burial sites, the efforts to preserve sites today, and the stories behind some of the historical figures buried in New Hampshire. Guests will include:
- JerriAnne Boggis, executive director of the Black Heritage Trail of NH;
- Erica Armstrong Dunbar, historian and author of the book Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave (about Ona Judge, who fled to freedom to New Hampshire
- P. Gabrielle Foreman, Harriet Wilson scholar and Paterno Family Professor of American Literature and Professor of African American Studies and History at Penn State University; founding director of the Colored Conventions Project.
Tune in Monday, February 8 at 9 a.m. to hear the broadcast, or you can stream it from nhpr.org or listen to the replay that evening at 9 p.m.
Since 1981, New Hampshire Public Radio has shaped the media landscape in the Granite State and beyond. Our mission is “Expanding minds, sparking connections, building stronger communities.” NHPR is broadcast from 14 different sites, making it by far New Hampshire’s largest (and only) statewide radio news service. Every week, NHPR is the choice of more than 157,000 listeners as a primary source of in-depth and intelligent news coverage, with thousands more viewing NHPR.org, following our social media sites or listening to our podcasts. Each day, New Hampshire Public Radio delivers several hours of local news reported by its award-winning news team. Locally produced programs and podcasts include The Exchange, The Folk Show, Outside/In, Bear Brook, and Civics 101, among others. NHPR is the exclusive outlet for NPR News in the Granite State and broadcasts national weekly programs such as The Moth Radio Hour, Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, and This American Life. www.nhpr.org
The Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire works to visibly honor and share a truer more inclusive history through exhibits, educational programs, curriculum development and tours that can change the way our country understands human dignity when it is free of historical stereotypes.
The Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire promotes awareness and appreciation of African American history and life in order to build more inclusive communities today.
To celebrate a people’s history of resilience, versatility, and courage.
To promote awareness and appreciation of African American history and culture in New Hampshire through education and public programs including creating appropriate memorials at significant locations within the state.