Portsmouth, Milford & Warner , NH

Contact Name
JerriAnne Boggis
Project Dates
Fall 2018 - Fall 2019
Workshop Leader
Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) 2019
Tags
Social action and justice, Research, Placemaking/placekeeping, Networking, Event, Cultural Heritage, Workforce Development
The BHTNH works to engage communities in learning more about the deep African American history of this region and the ways in which this history has helped shape our society today. Our work includes developing a visible, statewide Black heritage trail and creating spaces where people can talk to each other about race, diversity, and inclusion in order to deepen our understanding of cultural and historical contexts that can change the way our state and country understand human dignity free of historical stereotypes.

This presentation will look at the work the BHTNH is doing to expand the trail in two New Hampshire towns, Milford and Warner by replicating the work done in Portsmouth.
Project Goals
What were the specific goals of this creative economy project? Describe the community development challenge or opportunity that your project was designed to address:
Building on our seacoast successes … successes that include … the installation of 25 markers in Portsmouth that visibly honors the town’s 400-year Black history; the preservation of two major building, the Pearl and Rock Rest; and the return of the African Burying Ground to sacred space … the BHTNH’s work at this exciting juncture is the creation and full development of a robust statewide network of trails that will include Black history stories from all seven regions of the state, scaffolded by rigorous research, interpretive and educational materials, dynamic public partnerships and engaging public programming starting with Milford and Warner.

BHTNH’s work is about showing the history of race as a social construction developed when this nation was forming an ideology to justify slavery, to create wealth and to maintain power for the elite, and about creating space for difficult dialogue. Our programs, exhibits, guided tours, and curriculum development programs connect the dots between the past and the present to reveal the intersectionality of racism and other forms of oppression on systems of education, property, economic development, and politics. As such, these shared stories not only offer opportunities for historical and cultural study, but also self-analysis. This approach defuses what can be the divisiveness of discussion in contemporary American discourse by seeing “undoing race” as a shared endeavor.
Who was involved in this project and what did they do? (be sure to include the partners from outside of the creative sector and how local voices were included):
A major part of the BHTNH's strategic statewide expansion plan (see attached document) is the development of partnerships with specific institutions in the towns slated for expansion. In Milford, in 2006 we worked with the Historical Society and the town's Board of Selectmen to erect a statue in honor of Harriet Wilson, the first African American woman to publish a novel in English. Today we are working with the Historical Society to create an exhibit, Journey to Freedom, which will chronicle the Town's early Black history, and with we are working with teachers and students in the high school to assist with curriculum development.
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
One tool the BHTNH has used for its statewide expansion is an expansion of our signature Portsmouth Tea Talk programs in three new locations around the state. These intentional and participatory dialogues act as a catalyst for deeper excavating of local Black history. An expansion of Tea Talks aligns with BHTNH’s overarching, four-phase expansion plan to develop and support a truly statewide network of trails with historic markers, online maps and narrative, as well as K-12 supplemental curricula. Tea Talks facilitate intellectual and communal connections between racism’s grip on our past and its contemporary manifestations. The program goal is to move participants into deeper thinking and action to make their towns places where true and full history is acknowledged, as one way to make our state’s future one where everyone thrives. In Warner, we will be working with the historical society to develop the town's Black Heritage Trail. Since our relationships in Milford are well established our expansion to Warner will serve as a model for how we work with researcher and institutions in towns where our organization is just developing a footprint.
During Phase One, we are focused on building partnerships with local researchers, historical societies and educational institutions in towns where there are documented Black histories, so we can collaboratively excavate and communicate them to local residents. As nationally-renowned experts in contested history, BHTNH provides guidance and training to partners to ensure excellence in research, documentation, presentation and interpretation. The BHTNH strives to be a standard-bearer and when it comes to historical interpretation and research in this area, conveying our state’s full histories with care and a critical eye. From the rich soil of these collaborative relationships, BHTNH will: develop and publish online histories and resources accessible to all; initiate development of educational curricula for use by local educators; and host a workshop session for historical societies and independent researchers on researching & documenting contested histories in their hometowns.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
The creation of the Portsmouth African Burying Ground Memorial, which was a successful collaborative effort lead by an individual researcher (Valerie Cunningham), embraced by town officials (Mayor's Blue Ribbon Committee), championed by the community and recognized by the country was our inspiration for the statewide Trail. The installation of a visible memorial honoring a town's hidden and contested history has created a space for the community and visitors to talk about the country's history of enslavement and its aftermath that continues to be felt today.
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
Expansion of the BHTNH to Milford and Warner is a part of our major multi-year statewide effort which includes the following steps.
Phase 1:
-Divide the trail into the 7 NH regions.
-Identify regional educational institution for collaboration, partnership, research.
-Identify towns with documented history and known sites in the region.
-Identify partners from the historical society, school, church and/or community organization of the towns.
-Host an event in collaboration with partners announcing town’s addition to statewide BHTNH. (add tea talks)
-Web presence (information) and online audio tour (site) completed in Phase 1.

Phase 2:
-Develop K-12 curriculum for towns with multiple sites.
-Host Event/Community Dialogue program.

Phase 3
-Install Distinctive BHTNH trail markers.
-Develop K-12 curriculum by region for towns with a single story.
-Train tour guides.

Phase 4
-Audio Statewide Tour online, on-going research in other towns and grow a searchable online database
Obstacles
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
1. Each town has it's own unique flavor so we had to vary our strategy for each town.

2. In New Hampshire, where people of color have historically been fewer than 4% of the population and where many racial stereotypes persist about the imagined deficient abilities of the non-white population, we struggled to gain the support of New Hampshire's corporations. Diversity remained lacking and of little priority for many companies. Businesses declare the reason to be an unqualified local workforce or a perception that qualified applicants are deterred by the state’s chilly climate.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
1. Be deliberate about developing relationships with town stakeholders.
2. Deliver programs that complement the feel of the town. For example in Andover, NH we are working with the historical society to present the story of the magician Richard Potter during their "Old Hometown Day."
3. For businesses, we are addressing the need for workforce development by creating messages that speak to diversity & inclusion for economic growth. Our statewide trail serves as a sign of a welcoming community that can attract diverse populations.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
1. Be flexible. Things always change.
2. Be excited. Others feed off of that excitement and energy.
3. Focus on the human story and truth-telling. This builds bridges without judgment or blame.
Project Impact
How has this project strategically connected arts and cultural activities to social, economic, and cultural issues in your community? What is different in your community as a result of this project?
The project explores how the humanities can reveal the sources of images and ideas about diverse communities and their histories in the Granite State and in America. Our presentations necessarily examine stereotypes and misconceptions in the context of America’s racial and ethnic histories. While the talks are not theoretical in their focus, they do engage with critical race theory in the humanities to open dialogue about why such images, ideas, and histories are part of the fabric of American life, and what the consequences are of creating identities based on concepts of race, including whiteness. The talks invite participants to share their experiences and perceptions, so the panelists model in their presentations this kind of personal engagement with the state informed by their knowledge of history and culture.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
By creating art spaces such as the African Burying Ground Memorial we create visible and safe space where difficult dialogues can occur. Portsmouth now talks openly about our slave-trading past and its effect on the town. Other historic houses have begun to include this story in their tours. New Hampshire's Black history in now visible.
How did you measure this success or progress?
The success of this phase of the project is evaluated by the following metrics:
- Robust involvement of local partners in research process & promotion of community events
- Local press engagement and coverage
- Participation in programs and tours
- Evaluations from programs
- Attendance at contested history workshop
- Google analytics of BHTNH website to gauge interaction with & use of interpretive materials
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
BHTNH hosts hallmark programs throughout the year that offer a diversity of platforms for engaging historical and contemporary Black cultural contributions and perspectives. Annual programs include: Elinor Williams Hooker Tea Talks from January to March; Spring Symposium in May; Juneteenth Celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation in June; and the Annual Black New England Conference held in October. From May through October, BHTNH-trained docents provide tours of the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail. BHTNH guides also present ‘armchair tours’ for libraries, schools, senior centers, museums, historical societies, and clubs. BHTNH reaches a racially diverse group of nearly 6,000 students, educators, researchers, and visitors annually, and we project a significant increase in attendance following the establishment of an interpretive center at our newly purchased building in downtown Portsmouth.

A major benefit we gained from our plans to expand statewide and from the reputation of our successful programming was receiving a $450,000 tax credit grant from the CDFA towards the purchase of a historic home in downtown Portsmouth which will serve as our state headquarters and an interpretive center. As our programmatic reach grows, will our donor base, eligibility for more federal-level grant funding, and interest in sponsorships from local businesses.
CCX Workshop Handout