PLEASE NOTE: This program has been rescheduled for February 17, 2024 at 11:00 AM. Please register on our event calendar.
January 31, 2024. Full story on The Reminder.
SPRINGFIELD — Stories of Black men and women living in Springfield and the surrounding areas in the 1700s and 1800s will be shared during an upcoming event with Cliff McCarthy, an archivist from the Springfield Museums’ Library and Archives.
The Freedom Stories of the Pioneer Valley will take place on Feb. 3 in the Mason Square Library Branch community room from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
Because Springfield Central Library is located on the quad with the museums, there is a close relationship between the two.
Springfield City Library Training and Programming Librarian Elizabeth McKinstry said, “Cliff McCarthy, who works in the library archives over at the history museum has been participating [and] working on research on this for a long time but also participated in this community history project called documenting the early history of Black lives in the Connecticut River Valley.”
McCarthy told Reminder Publishing that he plans to share stories of African American men and women who achieved their freedom in extraordinary ways. “All of them lived locally, but each of these stories reflects an important aspect of our nation’s history regarding Black Americans. I will also be highlighting a recent project that is enabling researchers to learn more about them and others, by diving deep into local archives to find the evidence of their lives,” he said.
This is the first time this event will take place at Springfield, although other area libraries have hosted it in the past.
“It’s all about remembering these people and their stories. When you say their names and tell their stories, we assure their lives will never be forgotten, again,” McCarthy said.
When researching this topic, McCarthy discovered information that interested him. “Jupiter Richards was a patriot who fought in the American Revolution before coming to Springfield and finding work in the Springfield Armory. He was convicted of stealing a small amount of grain and was given a fine by the court, which he couldn’t pay. What happened to him next, will probably break your heart. These stories are extraordinary, often unknown, and give us perspective on the lives of Black people then and now,” he said.
He went on to say that the story that first got him interested in these narratives is the rescue of Angeline Palmer — a story he will not likely tell on Feb. 3. “Angeline was a free-born Black child “bound out” to work in the home of a white Belchertown couple. When the couple moved to [the] state of Georgia, they planned to take Angeline with them and sell her into slavery. The scheme was discovered by some young men in Amherst, who went to Belchertown and snatched her from her home and sent her into hiding. The young men were convicted and did time in the Northampton jail, but never disclosed her whereabouts,” McCarthy said.
In addition to this event, McKinstry said Maggie Keane, a reference librarian at the Central Library, has been doing an “extremely popular” series of local history events. At the East Forest Park Branch Library, Keane shared the history of a Springfield female bootlegger during the time of prohibition.
McKinstry noted that there will be an event in March about the history of women’s basketball and in April, there is an event like the Freedom Stories of the Pioneer Valley, which shares genealogy ancestry about connecting to your roots.
“The library is for everybody,” McKinstry said. “We reflect that in our history programs and we’re very excited to be doing more presentations on local history and genealogy because people love that and we encourage them to come to the library.”
At the Springfield Central Library in particular, McKinstry said they offer help for people looking for information on local history and have “a good collection” and librarians that specialize in helping people in requests looking for that information.
During February — Black History Month — there will be an author event that takes place every Thursday from 3:30-4:30 p.m. at the Brightwood Branch. The series — designed for children and their parents — will include stories and poetry.
In terms of adult programming, the Freedom Stories of the Pioneer Valley is the largest event.
To learn more, visit springfieldlibrary.org/library.