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Give Back NH: Black Heritage Trail

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Black Heritage Trail
Black Heritage Trail founders & administration (left to right): Valerie Cunningham , Dwight Davis, Robert Thompson, JerriAnne Boggis.

In this week's Give Back New Hampshire segment we take a look at the Black Heritage Trail, whose mission is to not only shine a light on the Granite State's rich Black history but to facilitate broader conversations about inclusivity in our communities.

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JerriAnne Boggis (Executive Director): In Milford, New Hampshire, we're the home to the first Black woman to publish a novel in English — Harriet Wilson. In Newmarket, New Hampshire, the first Black person of color to be elected to public office was Wentworth Cheswell.

My name is JerriAnne Boggis, and I'm the Executive Director of the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire.

We treasure our first in the nation status, right? And I would argue that we should also be able to treasure our our Black history because we have a lot of "firsts" here in New Hampshire.

A group of us decided to form the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire, where we could tell the stories [by] creating markers, signs — visible signs— of black presence, not just in Portsmouth, but the state's Black history...and how, how important and how deep that is.

Angela Matthews (Volunteer & Tour Guide): I'm Angela Matthews, and I've been involved with the Black Heritage Trail since 1993. My primary focus is being a tour guide. I see people change their minds about important information — about important people — and say, 'Why didn't I know this history?'

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Students pose with a Black Heritage Trail sculpture in downtown Portsmouth.

It's important for us to know how we got here, and who we are as a state, and where those contributions came from that are lasting...and part of who we are. And not just from the Western European perspective, but from the African perspective.

Dwight Davis (Board Member): It is so important that we have these conversations, and to be courageous in doing so.

My name is Dwight Davis. I've been a board director with the Black Heritage Trail. As a matter of fact, the Black Heritage Trail has been inundated with people of all backgrounds, all ethnicities, all races over the past 18 months, since the unfortunate things that happened to Miss Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. And people are asking, 'How can I help? How can I learn?'

And thus, we have more Tea Talks, and we're having more conversations. We're going to be creating more markers in the years going forward.

JerriAnne Boggis: From February to March, we have a series of community dialogs that we call Tea Talks, and those usually deal with contemporary issues that we're facing here in New Hampshire.

We are taking a look at the bill that was passed around divisive concepts, and what that means to teaching history — Black history in our schools.

We encourage you to join us in this conversation. It is through all of us coming together and creating the space — the space for dialog that we learn about each other, that we learn new things in, and different ways of being and creating an environment of understanding.

The Black Heritage Trail's first Tea Talk of the season kicks off Feb. 6 at 2 PM and can be attended virtually.

The guest speaker is award winning writer and contributor to the 1619 Project, Nikita Stewart. Learn more here.

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