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Episode Info

Episode Info:

In the 19th century, a network of abolitionists and sympathizers in Boston helped enslaved African Americans find their way to freedom in the Northern states or Canada. It’s a topic we’ve talked about before, but this time there’s a twist. We’re going to be examining how Boston’s position as an important port city changed the dynamic of seeking freedom. Jake sat down with National Park Service ranger Shawn Quigley to discuss how the underground railroad ran right through Boston Harbor.

Please support us on Patreon and check out the full show notes at:

The Maritime Underground Railroad Boston Book Club

As long as we’re talking about the Harbor Islands today, we thought it would make sense to share a guidebook with you. As we may have mentioned before, the Harbor Islands are some of our favorite places in Greater Boston. Whether we’re sitting around a bonfire on the beach and watching the sun set behind the Boston skyline, skipping stones on quiet waters, or crawling into the hidden passages of a World War I era fort, exploring the Harbor Islands is a great way to spend a day.

Discovering the Boston Harbor Islands by Christopher Klein is arranged as an island by island guide, focusing on the geography and available recreational opportunities on each one. The whole thing is richly illustrated with photos, maps, and historic images. There are long historical sidebars about events that took place on different islands, as well as commentary on modern environmental challenges.

Here’s how the publisher’s website describes the book:

Discovering the Boston Harbor Islands is an indispensable resource for those who want to uncover the best kept secret in the Northeast.

Part history, part travel guide, this book is the most compelling invitation to explore the Boston Harbor Islands National Park area to date. Complete with resource listings of recreational activities on and around the harbor islands and richly illustrated with over 150 full-color photographs, Christopher Klein’s comprehensive coverage and keen wit are sure to inspire thousands of landlubbers and mariners to leave port for many summers to come.

Explore the military installations that protected Boston during wartime including Fort Warren, home of Confederate prisoners during the Civil War. Visit Boston Light on Little Brewster, site of the nation’s oldest lighthouse. Kayak into the coves where pirates and bootleggers once hid. Wander the meadows that were the camps of Native Americans and the sites of Revolutionary skirmishes. Sail to the outer islands, a spectacular ocean wilderness. Find the best year-round fishing spots and discover why the islands are a birders paradise. Dive amid century-old shipwrecks or climb to the top of Spectacle Island for an altogether different view of the Boston skyline. Take in a jazz concert, an antique baseball game, or simply hop from one island to the next to experience the stunning natural beauty of this most storied national park area.

Discovering the Boston Harbor Islands is sure to resonate with new and veteran islanders. Whether it’s hiking, camping, a trip through history, or a simple getaway to spend a day at the beach, a visit to the harbor islands offers an outdoor experience wholly unique to the geography and heritage of Boston. Don’t leave port without it!

Upcoming Historical Event

Since this week’s episode deals with the enslavement of humans and resistance to the practice, we thought having a related event would be a good idea. Few antebellum lawmakers pressed the issue of slavery as consistently or persistently as John Quincy Adams. The opinion of this podcast is that he got his conscience on the issue from one source: his mother.

Though Abigail Adams grew up in a family that enslaved people, she always detested the practice as an adult. In 1774, she wrote, “I wish most sincerely there was not a Slave in the province. It allways appeard a most iniquitious Scheme to me-fight ourselfs for what we are daily robbing and plundering from those who have as good a right to freedom as we have. You know my mind upon this Subject.” Many years later, she fought for equal access to education, writing in 1797, “The Boy is a Freeman as much as any of the young Men, and merely because his Face is Black, is he to be denied instruction? Is this the Christian principle of doing to others, as we would have others do to us?”

Edith Gelles from Stanford University will be plumbing this topic in more depth in a talk called “The Peculiar Institution: Abigail Adams and Slavery,” on June 26. Here’s how the MHS describes the event:

Edith Gelles, a senior scholar with the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University, is an award-winning historian and author of Abigail & John: Portrait of a Marriage and Portia: The World of Abigail Adams. Gelles will discuss her current research on Abigail’s thoughts and experiences with slavery and race.

The talk starts at 6pm, and it costs $10, unless you’re an MHS member or an EBT cardholder.

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