Royall House & Slave Quarters

Royall House & Slave Quarters Historic house museum featuring the only known remaining freestanding slave quarters in New England. In the eighteenth century, the Royall House & Slave Quarters was the home of the Massachusetts colony’s largest slaveholding family and the enslaved Africans who made their lavish way of life possible.
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Mission: The Royall House & Slave Quarters explores the meanings of freedom and independence before, during, and since the American Revolution, in the context of a household of wealthy Loyalists and enslaved Africans.

Operating as usual

It's been quite a week for publicity around here! A front page story in Sunday's Boston Globe featured Kyera Singleton, ...
08/11/2020
Royall House and Slave Quarters

It's been quite a week for publicity around here! A front page story in Sunday's Boston Globe featured Kyera Singleton, our executive director. And an opinion piece by historian Tiya Miles -- who spoke at our annual Giving Voice benefit event last fall -- highlighted our museum as a successful example of turning historic plantations into "stages for meaningful dialogue."

Today we're pleased to share Nell Porter Brown's Harvard Magazine article about our site's history and our museum's mission.

"As a historian of slavery, Singleton says, 'We cannot talk about issues of mass incarceration, police violence, health, wealth, and educational disparities without thinking about how structural inequality is a legacy of enslavement.' The museum’s role is 'to memorialize the lives of the enslaved and to give people the tools to reckon with our current moment,' she continues. 'I believe the preservation and amplification of black history, which is American history, is an act of liberation.'"

Preserving black history as “an act of liberation”

"This dramatic summer of mass protest may represent an unprecedented opening for plantation sites to find receptive audi...
08/10/2020
What should we do with plantations? - The Boston Globe

"This dramatic summer of mass protest may represent an unprecedented opening for plantation sites to find receptive audiences for this tough work of collaborative reinvention, and indeed, some are already doing so.

"For example, public visits to the Royall House and Slave Quarters, an 18th century estate in Medford, Mass. (home to Governor John Winthrop as well as Isaac Royall, whose fortune built on slave labor and commercial trade helped to establish Harvard Law School), begin in the quarters. Board Co-President Penny Outlaw continually interweaves the activities of Blacks with those of white residents even as the tour moves into and through the main house.

"Kyera Singleton, the first African American woman to lead the site as executive director, told me about her museum’s special charge in these times: 'I cannot stress enough that the Royall House and Slave Quarters is a museum that seeks not only to get the history of slavery right, but also to function as a site of memory. It is a place that memorializes the lives of enslaved people. We do that quite simply by centering their lives, their experiences with violence, and their resistance. I believe one of our strengths is the ability to help people reckon with our current political moment by being honest about slavery and the legacies of enslavement today.'"

Thanks to historian/author Tiya Miles for her recognition of our museum's work.

The lavish estates where Black people were enslaved usually whitewash their history. Here's how these places might begin to redeem themselves.

Sincere thanks to Hayley Kaufman for her terrific front page article about our work in today's Boston Globe: Taken toget...
08/09/2020
60 enslaved people once toiled for a rich landowner in Medford. Kyera Singleton wants you to know who they were - The Boston Globe

Sincere thanks to Hayley Kaufman for her terrific front page article about our work in today's Boston Globe:

Taken together, the two small buildings in Medford, now a museum, tell a foundational story of this country, of immense wealth underpinned by a brutal system of slavery. But they also bear witness to a vital effort to honor those who were enslaved here and to connect their history to the calls for racial justice galvanizing the nation today.

"I think of this as an exciting time and an exciting challenge,” said executive director Kyera Singleton, a PhD candidate in the department of American Culture at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and a visiting dissertation fellow at Harvard. "When we think about Northern slavery and we think about Massachusetts, people think about abolitionist history, and that’s true, but it’s both. There’s a history of slavery here.

"This is not just history about Black Americans. This is American history. Slavery is American history. And we want people to understand that," she said.

“What are these longstanding historical racial and social inequities that exist that really hurt Black communities today? What are the roots they have in enslavement? Let’s talk about it. Let’s be honest about it."

In the midst of the pandemic, Kyera Singleton landed a new job, becoming the executive director of the Royall House and Slave Quarters in Medford, believed to be the last standing structure of its kind in the Northern United States.

"Brenda Parker's job is to help shape the narrative of the enslaved people at Mount Vernon. Parker, the head of African ...
08/08/2020
George Washington's Mount Vernon Highlights More Stories Of Enslaved People

"Brenda Parker's job is to help shape the narrative of the enslaved people at Mount Vernon. Parker, the head of African American interpretation, says the plantation is now focused as much on the lives of the enslaved people as it is on the life of George Washington.

"'Because everything, everything was Washington-centric,' she says, rapidly pounding her fist into her hand to hammer home her point. 'I get it. We're on his property. But if it weren't for us, he would not have had that property.'"

The legacy of American landmarks are being taken to task for traditionally glorifying the country's white Founding Fathers, many of whom were slave owners.

From our friends at the Boston African American National Historic Site in collaboration with our friends at the Museum o...
08/07/2020

From our friends at the Boston African American National Historic Site in collaboration with our friends at the Museum of African American History - Boston and Nantucket, some fascinating Smith Court Stories to explore.

Tucked away off today’s Joy Street in Beacon Hill, Smith Court served as a center for Boston’s African American community in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

We are pleased to announce the release of Smith Court Stories, an educational resource that dives into the stories of community, activism, and education that occupy this space. Created in partnership with the Museum of African American History, Smith Court Stories connects a digitally curated collection of archival documents and archaeological artifacts to lived experiences of African Americans in 19th and 20th century Boston. Visit the link in our profile or click here: https://www.smithcourtstories.org/.

Image description: G.W. Bromley & Company’s “Atlas of the city of Boston: City Proper.” This excerpt shows Smith Court, off Joy Street, in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston. It notes the African Meeting House as the “Colored Bapt[ist] Ch[urch]” and the Smith School.

#SmithCourt #SmithCourtStories #BlackBoston #NorthSlope #BeaconHil #BotonHistory

Learn about Boston's 17th-century free Black community from engaging and knowledgeable public historian Alex Goldfeld at...
08/07/2020
Old North Church & Historic Site

Learn about Boston's 17th-century free Black community from engaging and knowledgeable public historian Alex Goldfeld at this online program on Wednesday, August 19 at 7pm, hosted by our friends at the Old North Church & Historic Site.

Join us! Public historian and local author Alex Goldfeld will present on Boston’s African-American community in the 1600s, drawing on his graduate research in The History of the Streets of Boston’s North End.

"Foremost among the unrelenting cruelties heaped upon enslaved people was the lack of health care for them. Infants and ...
08/07/2020
Enslaved people's health was ignored from the country's beginning, laying the groundwork for today's health disparities

"Foremost among the unrelenting cruelties heaped upon enslaved people was the lack of health care for them. Infants and children fared especially poorly. After childbirth, mothers were forced to return to the fields as soon as possible, often having to leave their infants without care or food. The infant mortality rate was estimated at one time to be as high as 50%. Adult people who were enslaved who showed signs of exhaustion or depression were often beaten.

"As a professor of social work, I study ways to stop racism, promote social justice, and help the Black community empower itself. A relationship exists between the health of enslaved Blacks and the making of America."

The health care inequities suffered by Black Americans today began centuries ago.

"Eurocentrism tells us that written history takes precedence over any other form of narrative. Those who are able to det...
08/06/2020
Even When Records Fall Short, Black History Must Be Told

"Eurocentrism tells us that written history takes precedence over any other form of narrative. Those who are able to detail their experiences and events on paper are given more credibility than those who do not or cannot.

"When one wants to write about the African-American past, one has to think imaginatively. One has to imagine millions of people whose identities had been taken and manipulated since first appearing on the shore of the colonies. One has to imagine how literacy meant death for us. One has to imagine how remaining secretive or finding subversive ways to communicate was about survival.

"To detail Black living and death, I needed a gumbo of tools: journals, articles, scholarly interviews, oral history, and personal history. I didn’t ignore the omissions—I exposed them. I confessed my frustration and I spoke of the foundation for these omissions."

Morgan Jerkins is the Senior Editor at ZORA and a Visiting Assistant Professor at Columbia University’s School of the Arts. Her second book, "Wandering in Strange Lands: A Daughter of the Great Migration Reclaims Her Roots," came out this week.

I grew up with my family speaking through circumlocution. I knew other Black families who didn’t speak about the past or present due to trauma. These omissions were inspiration for writing a book i…

From our friends at the Little Compton Historical Society, a short post about slavery in Rhode Island ... and details ab...
08/05/2020

From our friends at the Little Compton Historical Society, a short post about slavery in Rhode Island ... and details about a talk on the subject tonight at 7pm.

Today is the 204th anniversary of the end of slavery in Little Compton.

Kate Hilliard, the last person to be enslaved in our community, received her freedom on this day in 1816 thanks to a line in her owner's will. Kate was enslaved by the Hilliard family and worked in their home, their tavern, and in the poor house that they operated. Kate was the wife of Prince Grinnell, an enslaved man, and the mother of two boys (names unknown) who were born free around 1784 thanks to Rhode Island's Gradual Emancipation Act. The Act made all children born to enslaved women on or after March 1, 1784 free but indentured to their mothers' owners until adulthood. Thus began the slow end of slavery in Rhode Island. Slavery finally became illegal in RI in 1843.

We will celebrate Kate's life and especially her freedom tonight during a Zoom talk on Slavery and Freedom in Little Compton at 7 pm. LCHS Executive Director Marjory O'Toole will share her research into Little Compton's rich Black History and welcomes questions from the audience.

The talk is free and open to the public. Register here:
https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYqc-2vrD4rHdRrK1kSUD7uQEUdUbiBSruy

Image - The Slavery Memorial in the area of the Old Negro Burial Ground. Old Burial Ground on the Commons.

08/05/2020
Slave Chant c 1775 ROGER GIBBS

"Massa buy me he won't killa me ...."

This haunting melody -- the oldest known song sung in English by enslaved people in the Americas -- comes from Barbados c. 1775.

The call-and-response work song was transcribed by Granville Sharpe, a founder of the antislavery movement in Great Britain, from notes taken by Dr. William Dickson, secretary to the governor of Barbados at the time and later a prominent abolitionist.

The hand-written manuscript is registered with UNESCO's Memory of the World documentary heritage project: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/memory-of-the-world/register/full-list-of-registered-heritage/registered-heritage-page-1/an-african-song-or-chant-from-barbados/

We are grateful to our friends at The Museum of Antigua and Barbuda for this link.

The oldest known song sung in English by enslaved people in the Americas comes from Barbados c. 1775. The song was written down from notes taken by Dr. Willi...

This summer Dorothy Berry, the digital collections program manager at Harvard University's Houghton Library, whose profe...
08/04/2020
Bringing Black History to Light

This summer Dorothy Berry, the digital collections program manager at Harvard University's Houghton Library, whose professional background is in African-American-focused archival work, launched a project titled Slavery, Abolition, Emancipation, and Freedom: Primary Sources from Houghton Library.

"Leading a team of colleagues, she will spend the 2020-21 academic year building out the library’s digital collection of records related to African-American history: thousands of items from the late eighteenth century through the early twentieth. The process of digitizing the items will be slower than normal, because of COVID-related safety restrictions, but the plan is eventually to publish a website, available both to scholars and the public, with all the images and information."

Shown here: An initiation certificate for Richard P.G. Wright, inducting him into African Lodge no. 459, the first Black Masonic Lodge in Boston, on June 23, 1799. Among the certificate's signatories was the abolitionist leader Prince Hall (for whom the lodge was later named).

A Houghton Library project to digitize thousands of African-American records and artifacts

"Though Phillis Wheatley left a rich paper trail of poems and letters, she never recorded her own account of her life, a...
08/03/2020
How Phillis Wheatley Was Recovered Through History

"Though Phillis Wheatley left a rich paper trail of poems and letters, she never recorded her own account of her life, and, in her writings, which brim with her spiritual and political ideas, biographical details are sparse. For those, scholars have had to rely on a memoir published in 1834, fifty years after the poet’s death, by Margaretta Matilda Odell, a white woman who claimed to be a 'collateral descendant' of Susanna Wheatley.

"A new book, The Age of Phillis, by the poet and professor Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, presents a different story. Jeffers suggests that Odell’s memoir created a 'pesky "House Negro" narrative' that framed Phillis Wheatley as domestic, apolitical, and acquiescent. Frustrated that literary history entrusted the story of America’s first Black poet to a white woman, Jeffers spent years hunting through Massachusetts archives.

"The Age of Phillis is, strictly speaking, a collection of poetry by Jeffers, imagining Phillis’s life and the age in which she lived, followed by an essay about Jeffers’s research on the topic. But its deeper project is to combine fiction and scholarship—a mode that Saidiya Hartman has called 'critical fabulation'—to fill in the gaps in the archive, especially as they pertain to the lives of enslaved women in America.

"Gradually, in poem after poem, Jeffers undoes the whitewashing of Phillis’s story, illustrating the challenges of recovering African-American history and the necessity of interrogating received narratives."

For decades, a white woman’s memoir shaped our understanding of America’s first Black poet. Does a new book change the story?

The outpouring of support for our fundraiser is remarkable. In under two weeks, we raised more than $20,000 to cover the...
08/02/2020
Slave Quarters Preservation: Educating on Slavery and Freedom in New England

The outpouring of support for our fundraiser is remarkable. In under two weeks, we raised more than $20,000 to cover the cost of the Slave Quarters’ urgent preservation needs, and to ensure that we can continue to educate about the history and legacy of slavery in the Northeast. We are already putting your funds to use and have hired preservation contractors from within our community to begin repairs this month.

Since we unexpectedly reached our goal so quickly, we will keep the fundraiser active in hopes of raising an additional $10,000. As a small museum, we depend on the income we generate through tours and tickets to in-person programs. Because of the pandemic and our museum being closed, that funding has been lost. We will use any additional funds raised to purchase the necessary equipment to create online content, such as a virtual tour, and to bolster our programming on racial and social justice.

We are grateful for all of the support we have received so far. Thank you for investing and believing in us!

The Royall House and Slave Quarters in Medford, Mass. is a nonprofit historic museum and site of the only known freestanding quarters where enslaved people lived and worked that remains in the Northern US. The Slave Quarters architecture and archaeological artifacts bear witness to intertwined ...

Today's WCVB CityLine program on Slavery and Reparations in New England featured an interview with Harvard historian and...
08/02/2020

Today's WCVB CityLine program on Slavery and Reparations in New England featured an interview with Harvard historian and sociologist Orlando Patterson on the history of American slavery; a conversation with Providence RI mayor Jorge Elorza about that city's "Truth-Telling, Reconciliation and Municipal Reparations Process," and Chronicle on WCVB Channel 5's terrific short video about our museum. Find it at www.wcvb.com/cityline.

Royall House & Slave Quarters is an education about the realities of Northern #slavery and its legacies today. Sunday at noon on WCVB CityLine with #karenholmesward #wcvb

"August First Day was once the most important date on the calendar for African Americans during the 19th century. It rep...
08/01/2020
Perspective | A long-forgotten holiday animates Black Lives Matter

"August First Day was once the most important date on the calendar for African Americans during the 19th century. It represented a day more meaningful than the Fourth of July. It was also widely celebrated across the nation with picnics, speeches, dancing, hymns and marches until the beginning of the Civil War. The holiday marked the radical deed of a foreign country: Britain’s passage of the Slavery Abolition Act, which marked the start of freedom for 800,000 enslaved people in all its colonies on Aug. 1, 1834.

"The annual August First Day celebrations were a rare example of multiracial advocacy in the 19th century. Its dialectic of protest can be seen in the methods and structure of Black Lives Matter: the decentralized nature of a national justice movement, the use of public spaces to agitate for the dignity of Black lives and the powerful rhetoric of inclusion. The centuries are different, but the methods and goals are similar.

"By 1859, August First Day had shifted from a day for marginalized dreamers into a movement that helped spark the abolition of slavery in the United States. The holiday celebrations bridged the divide between Black abolitionists and their White allies. The annual gatherings shifted from a celebration of an overseas emancipation into a demand for a domestic one."

The movement for racial equality echoes the vision of the “August First Day” holiday.

Address

15 George St
Medford, MA
02155

General information

Open to the public from late May through October, Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Guided tours at 1, 2, and 3 pm for a modest admission fee. Museum exhibits and shop open during tour hours. Please see our website at RoyallHouse.org for information about public programs, special events, membership, and lots of history. Sign up to receive our monthly newsletter: http://www.royallhouse.org/e-newsletter-signup/ Follow @RoyallHouse on Twitter.

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I'm looking for the live stream concert; just checking that set up is underway and that I'm not in the wrong place?
HARVARD GRAD SCHOOL OF EDUCATION & PROFESSOR JARVIS GIVENS seek a Project Manager for its Black Teacher Archives Project #52294BR https://sjobs.brassring.com/TGnewUI/Search/Home/Home?partnerid=25240&siteid=5341#jobDetails=1527247_5341 https://www.gse.harvard.edu/faculty/jarvis-givens #learntochangetheworld
Royall House & Slave Quarters just curious, how many public libraries in Massachusetts have museum passes to your historic site?
PLEASE PAY REPARATIONS
Good Morning, Who is NEXT! 566 Columbus Ave. has Several Restrictions that PROTECT the Harriet Tubman House from this Egregious Act of a 16-18 Million $$ CASH Sale of a Community Asset - for Luxury CONDOS! Why is the City and Elected Officials Ignoring the Community's OUTCRY 🖤
A painful but illuminating case study involving Native Americans, diadromous fishes, environmental policy, and corruption in colonial-era New England.
Hi, I am a Black Loyalist decedent and am doing research on these people. I have a short questionnaire regarding 18th century Black vernacular and how Blacks would have sounded at this time and how their vernacular would have influenced transcription of names into the Book of Negroes. I believe by thematically placing your responses we can see how ethnicity and space influenced transcriptions errors. Thanks for sharing.
Amazing article about how the economy of slavery became the economy of the industrial era and the economy of today.
Was the New Negro awakening after WW1, only happening in the USA? With a new Black History Month now upon us, it is my pleasure to inform you of our latest oral history resource, featuring unique on-camera testimony. Please visit our website for details – http://www.sweetpatootee.co.uk/work/mutiny/
I just visited the Royall House and Slave quarters today and had great time. It was rainy and windy, but that wasn't stopping me from going. I JUST found out this was here this past week, and I have lived here for some years. The guide, Vic, was very informative, spoke clearly and included everyone in the group. The other guide, Mr. Tom Lincoln, was a great person to talk to, he had so much information, and didn't mind the many questions and comments being exchanged. The other guests were a peach to talk to, share information with and gather information from. I'll be back. :)