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Visit The Robbins House

June, July & August: 11-4
(Closed Tuesdays)
September, October: 11-4
(Open Fri-Sun + Columbus Day)

320 Monument Street
Concord MA
(Located opposite the Old North Bridge)

(978) 254-1745

On Brister’s Hill with The Walden Woods Project

We were rained out, rained out again, and nearly rained out a third time for our program On Brister’s Hill with Robbins House re-enactor Joe Zellner and Walden Woods Project Director of Education, Whitney Retallic. Here are highlights we learned about Brister Freeman, whose home was in the town forest and Walden Woods:

  • Between the ages of 5-9, enslaved Brister was given to Concord’s Dr. Cuming, presumably as a wedding gift.
  • In the Revolutionary War, Private Brister Cuming marched under Colonel John Buttrick to Saratoga in 1777, and watched British General Burgoyne surrender.
  • Two years later he enlisted under the name Brister Freeman, announcing his newly acquired freedom.
  • He was the second man of African descent (after John Jack) to purchase Concord land in 1785, where he built a house shared with Charlestown Edes, his black comrade in the Continental Army.
  • He married, adopted his wife’s daughter, and had 2 sons. Both his wife and Charlestown Edes died of diseases associated with malnutrition. The soil in Walden Woods was so poor that o nutritious crops could be grown.
  • Freeman worked as a day laborer around town, often at Peter Wheeler’s slaughterhouse on the mill pond.
  • The Concord Social Circle Centennial edition (1782-1882) includes a passage about Peter Wheeler locking Freeman in his barn with an angry bull, with Wheeler astonished to see Freeman emerge and the bull slain.
  • Freeman strove to maintain possession of his land, which may have been threatened by his failure to pay back taxes, by appearing in court with his deed. In his will he left his land to a neighboring woman, rather than have it go to an unwelcome owner.
  • Brister Freeman died in 1822, the same year as Revolutionary War patriots of color Caesar Robbins and Case Feen.
  • Peter Robbins pointed out the ditch fence dug around Freeman’s property, still visible today.

Spotlight on New Robbins House Co-President Rob Munro

“To a certain extent, we do live in a bubble here,” Rob said, “not only at Middlesex, but also in Concord. I am very hopeful that we can gently expand that bubble and have more difficult conversations about culture, history and race. And, in the process, become more empathetic and understanding of those around us.”

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Freedom’s Way Hidden Treasures Program— Patriots, Prejudice, and Protest: The Hidden Stories of Concord’s Early African Americans

Freedom’s Way Hidden Treasures Program — Patriots, Prejudice, and Protest: The Hidden Stories of Concord’s Early African Americans

At The Robbins House
Sat. May 19 • 2:45–4:00 PM
Meet at 320 Monument St., in the Parking Lot across from the North Bridge
Our next stop, with time to travel, is the Robbins House, where Peter Robbins’ niece Ellen Garrison talks about being raised in 1820-30s Concord, and the antislavery activism that brought her from Boston to Rhode Island, Maryland, Virginia, Kansas, and California in pursuit of independence at a time of racial injustice.
Register at education@walden.org.

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Freedom’s Way Hidden Treasures Program — Patriots, Prejudice, and Protest: The Hidden Stories of Concord’s Early African Americans

Freedom’s Way Hidden Treasures Program — Patriots, Prejudice, and Protest: The Hidden Stories of Concord’s Early African Americans

On Brister’s Hill with The Walden Woods Project
Sat. May 19 • 1:00–2:15 PM • Brister’s Hill
Meet at Hapgood Wright Town Forest Parking Lot
Our program will begin at Brister’s Hill, named after Brister Freeman, a formerly enslaved man who was the second person of African descent to own land in Concord. Peter Robbins, whose father Caesar Robbins went with Brister Freeman as a soldier to Bennington in the summer of 1776, will recount the lives of Patriots of Color. Both Brister Freeman and Caesar Robbins gained their freedom at the time of the Revolutionary war and began lives as free men in Concord. See the ditch fence Brister Freeman dug around his property almost 200 years ago.

Register at education@walden.org.

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Transgressing the Color Line: Depictions of Free Blacks in the Popular Press

Transgressing the Color Line: Depictions of Free Blacks in the Popular Press

Fresh Goods Lecture Series
Thursday, May 10 • 7:00-8:00 PM • Concord Museum
Join writer and historian Jonathan Michael Square as he analyzes past images of free Africans Americans in New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston that appeared in the popular press. Specifically, a series of cartoons published in the early 19th century used to arouse northern anti-black fears that free blacks might be threatening the racial, sexual, and class hierarchies of the time. Fashion will be the central analytic as free blacks were often depicted as dandified buffoons. He will show how the overly fashioned bodies of the free blacks in northern metropolises transgressed and threatened the, until then, established slavocratic order. Professor Square is a writer and historian specializing in Afro-Diasporic fashion and visual culture. He currently teaches at Harvard University, where his work explores the intersection of fashion and slavery in the African Diaspora — an outgrowth of his academic training at Cornell University, University of Texas at Austin, and New York University. Museum members free, Non-members $5.

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Interactive Workshop & Panel Discussion

Myth, Reality & Mapping the Underground Railroad An Interactive Workshop & Panel Discussion

Saturday, May 5th • 9 am–3:30 pm
St John’s Church • 101 Chapel Street | Portsmouth NH
Cost: $35 Tour & Symposium (includes lunch) • $25 Symposium only (includes lunch) • $20 Tour only • Register here

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CCHS Students Teach Elementary School Students about the Robbins House

Spring Semester • The Robbins House

This spring, a group of 6 students from the Rivers and Revolutions program, working with CCHS teacher and Robbins House board member Johanna Glazer, have been developing field trip curriculum that can be used by the Robbins House and the Concord Public Schools. So far they have planned and piloted activities for second and fifth graders including an Ellen Garrison scavenger hunt, a petition activity, and a consideration of everyday life in the Robbins House. The Rivers and Revolutions students have learned a great deal about the house and its residents and are excited to find ways to bring the house to life for young people. The students have two more elementary school visits scheduled in May to continue developing and testing activities for young people.

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African Wrap Dolls at The Robbins House

Jack and Jill Group Makes African Wrap Dolls while Learning about The Robbins House

Sunday, April 29th • The Robbins House

A group of 15 young children and their parents from the Middlesex County Jack and Jill organization enjoyed an afternoon at the Robbins House. Jack and Jill of America, Inc. is a membership organization of parents with children ages 2–19, dedicated to nurturing future African American leaders by strengthening children through leadership development, volunteer service, philanthropic giving and civic duty. The Robbins House Co-President Maria Madison shared stories about Ellen Garrison, and the children had a chance to make an African Wrap Doll from National Black Doll Museum of History and Culture kits.

Concord Academy Multimedia Exhibits

Concord Academy History & Media Studies Students Create Multimedia Exhibits for The Robbins House

Students in Concord Academy teacher, and Robbins House board member, Kim Frederick’s spring course spring course, US: Public History, are studying the Robbins House and the history of African Americans in Concord while learning media skills to produce engaging exhibits. The first half of the semester focused on learning about the Garrisons, Robbins, and other 19th-century Concordians. After learning about different multimedia formats, students worked on their own projects, pitched their exhibit proposals – and then voting commenced. For the winning multimedia projects, please visit our website.

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