Sunday, August 2, 2015
Black Heritage Trail, John Brown, and Interpretation Appreciation
I spent some time at the Boston African American Historical Site this week. It was here that I had a chance to experience the John Brown tour and the Black Heritage Trail. Both of which were new for all that I have encountered this summer. As my time here begins to wind down, I feel as though I will be attempting to condense everything I possibly can into the remaining days of Boston National Historical Park.
The John Brown tour provided a piece of history that was left out of my history classes in high school. I am not sure if the debate has ever been settled as to whether John Brown should be remembered as a martyr of freedom or as a terrorist pursuing revolution. This tour provided information that allowed visitors to stand at the end of the tour, contemplating John Brown's aggressive abolitionist activities as one of the arguably most important casual factors of the Civil War. I highly recommend this tour to anyone visiting Boston next summer (unfortunately, this tour is not on the site's daily agenda.)
The Black Heritage Trail began at the Shaw Memorial. This memorial shows Robert Gould Shaw, leader of the first documented African American volunteer regiment (Massachusetts 54th regiment), and his men. The memorial serves as a reminder of the heavy cost that came to these men in South Carolina. This regiment led the attack on Fort Wagner. Although they suffered many casualties, including the death of Shaw, this event demonstrated the courage of these men.
My favorite stop on the tour included the Lewis and Harriet Hayden House (pictured right). Lewis Hayden had come to Boston in 1846 where his house served as a safe house for self-emancipated African Americans between the years of 1850-1860. I found the story of William and Ellen Craft to be very fascinating. They traveled by train is disguise. Ellen was of lighter complexion and dressed as a male while William played the role of her servant. During their time, this was on a level of danger beyond my imagination. When they were in the Hayden house, William had been in the basement when individuals searching for escaped slaves knocked on the Hayden’s door. The story goes that Hayden kept a barrel of gun powder by the door while holding a candle in one hand and a rifle in the other. He warned the unwanted visitors that he would drop the candle in the barrel, causing a devastating eruption, if they stepped through the door’s threshold. His dedication was truly astounding.
This story is told today to serve as a reminder of just one of the very many stories of the American people during the harsh times of the Civil War era. This story along with the stories of the American Revolution provide visitors the ability to hear the history that fit into the puzzle, forming what America is today. Cultural preservation remains to be an imperative role of the Boston African American Historical Site along with the Boston National Historical Park Rangers like Ranger Savage (pictured left), instilling inspiring stories into the minds of young and old.
The Interpretative Rangers here in Boston continue to prove the importance of the visitor's experience along with telling the American stories from the past. I have learned the importance of volunteers who also come into a lot of contact with the visitors when I attended a workshop that involved working with volunteers in National Parks. I had the pleasure of meeting Park Ranger Emily Prigot (pictured right) at this work shop who did a fantastic job bringing up excellent points related to volunteer communication and coordination. There are many veins that keep the Park Service alive and I am getting to experience the flow in which they all share. My time here in Boston is coming to a close, but I look forward to the very many opportunities that are waiting for me here before I leave.