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Black Walden: Slavery and Its Aftermath in Concord, Massachusetts

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Written by Elise Lemire

Narrated by Lee Ann Howlett

Duration 7 hours and 33 minutes

Concord, Massachusetts has long been heralded as the birthplace of American liberty and American letters. It was here that the first military engagement of the Revolutionary War was fought, and here that Thoreau came to “live deliberately” on the shores of Walden Pond. Between the Revolution and the settlement of the little cabin with the bean rows, however, Walden Woods was home to several generations of freed slaves and their children.

In Black Walden: Slavery and Its Aftermath in Concord, Massachusetts, Elise Lemire brings to life the former slaves of Walden Woods, and the men and women who held them in bondage during the 18th century. After charting the rise of Concord slaveholder John Cuming, Black Walden follows the struggles of Cuming’s slave, Brister, as he attempts to build a life for himself after 35 years of enslavement.

Brister Freeman, as he came to call himself, and some of the town’s slaves were able to leverage the political tensions that fueled the American Revolution and force their owners into relinquishing them. Once emancipated, however, the former slaves were permitted to squat on only the most remote and infertile places. Walden Woods was one of them. Here, Freeman and his neighbors farmed, spun linen, made baskets, told fortunes, and otherwise tried to survive in spite of poverty and harassment.

WARNING: Includes graphic violence suitable for adults only.


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