Phillis Wheatley, the famous poet, was captured in her homeland in Africa and enslaved at eight years old. She became a house slave in Boston, Massachusetts and was singled out by her mistress who taught her to read.
There were several reasons for wanting to teach slaves how to read and write. Many Christians thought that it was the right thing to do since they were humans who should be treated with dignity and respect. Sometimes the slave children would sit outside the white schoolhouses and memorize lessons they overheard. White children would teach black children lessons they learned in school. Older slaves who were literate would teach others at night under the light of pinewood torches. source
The Massachusetts Historical Society
I was walking by the building one sunny day in 2015 when I stopped to read the signs in front of it, then walked right in. I was greeted by a Black man at the reception desk. He waved me in, I climbed some stairs and saw a conference room full of people. At the head of the table a person stood with papers in my hand. This was my lucky day. The group was composed of about 30 knowledgeable white people and a black man.
Founded in 1791, the Massachusetts Historical Society has collected to tell us the story about American history, life and culture. It holds millions of rare and unique documents, artifacts, and irreplaceable national treasures. The archive is accessible to everyone with an interests in history. I think it used to be a rich man’s private club. The library woodwork is astonishing complex and tasteful. Looks like the books in there are hundreds of years old.
People assembled in the conference room were listening to two researchers present their papers about the life for Blacks in Early Black Boston. The year 1638 figured prominently. One gracious presenter shared her private papers (embargoed) with me after her talk. She focuses on the group of Africans who arrived in Boston in 1638. I learned a thing or two from her and I saw a thing or two.
I met a presenter representing Historic Deerfield. She was very gracious with her information. I have the vanilla folder she gave me stuffed with information about the African American community settlement in Deerfield, Mass. The time period was mid 1700’s. They lived and worked near Connecticut river. The area had the best soil for growing crops in Massachusetts at the time.