Recently, ERW members Phil Greenwalt and Rob Orrison spent the 241st anniversary of the opening of the American Revolution in the outskirts of Boston in Concord, Massachusetts. It was a whirlwind trip of research, photos and most importantly meeting the stakeholders in historic preservation and public history in the region. We already knew how active Concord was in promoting and preserving its history, but each time you visit you are blown away by their efforts and their appreciation for their past.
While in Concord, our more than gracious host was Jayne Gordon. Jayne has been involved in almost every public history project or initiative in the Concord area. A native of the area, everyone in Lexington and Concord knows Jayne. Jayne took the time to introduce us to many people and organizations in the area. I wanted to focus on two organizations that are doing great work in the region to promote local history with a national impact.
The Robbins House
Formerly the Drinking Gourd Project, The Robbins House is introducing people to the story of African Americans in the region. The all-volunteer board and staff are breaking new ground. Facing misconceptions of slavery in 18th century Concord head on, Robbins House President Maria Madison has led the charge to change the narrative.
The Robbins House is an early 19th century house that was inhabited by the first generation
of descendants of formerly enslaved African America Revolutionary War veteran Caesar Robbins. Using the story of Caesar Robbins as a base, Maria and her fellow volunteers interpret the role of African Americans in 18th and 19th century Concord. Most forget that 18th century Massachusetts was a colony that supported and practiced slavery. The Robbins House also interpret stories of how literary icons, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and David Henry Thoreau, dealt with slavery and prejudice. Again, most visitors (including me!) have their preconceived notions challenged. The Robbins House also provides exhibits on other aspects of African American history of Concord, as well as lectures, programs and self-guided tours of Concord.
The Robbins House’s location next to the famous North Bridge provides an interesting juxtaposition on freedom and liberty. Just a few hundred yards away the dream of American freedom and independence began and the Robbins House is filling the void of how that liberty equated to a large portion of the American population. On your next visit to Concord, it is a worth your time and support. I really enjoyed my time meeting with Maria and look forward to future conversations and visits. Visit their website at for more information www.robbinshouse.org.
Friends of Minuteman National Park
Many of our readers are aware of the recent “Parker’s Revenge” project and preservation project with the Civil War Trust’s “Campaign 1776.” Also, I bet all of our readers are aware of Minuteman National Historical Park, but how many know about the great efforts of the Friends of Minuteman National Historical Park? I must admit, until my recent visit I include myself if that “unknowing” category. Jayne introduced us to Robert Morris, President of the “Friends,” and Bob spent a morning going over the organization and their recent efforts to promote new historic research, archaeology and restoration of the area known as “Parker’s Revenge” along the Battle Road.
“Parker’s Revenge” occurred on the afternoon of April 19, 1775 along the road between Concord and Lexington. Captain Parker, who earlier that day confronted the British on the Lexington Green, regrouped his militia and prepared for an attack on the British column as it made its way back to Boston. As they marched through Lincoln and approached Fiske Hill, Parker’s men opened up a deadly fire from behind rocks. Up until last year, historians have always interpreted the event to take place along the Battle Road next to the modern Minuteman National Historical Park Visitor Center. But now, thanks to fundraising and manpower efforts of the “Friends”, the history of “Parker’s Revenge” is being rewritten. With new archaeology, the area of “Parker’s Revenge” will be reinterpreted a few hundred yards west of the current location. Bob and his team of volunteers also plan to work with the National Park Service to assist in restore the historic landscape in the area.
The “Friends” also fundraise to support interpretation projects, grounds projects, and support the large volunteer corps at the park. One of the most important tasks for the organization is advocating on behalf of the national park. My morning spent with Bob and Jayne walking the newly discovered “Parker’s Revenge” battlefield was a highlight of my trip. Being one of the first people to walk the “new” battlefield and hear how the project developed was a special treat.
I highly recommend you follow along the many projects the “Friends” have on going to support Minuteman National Historic Park. They are always looking for new members, no matter where you may live. Visit their website at www.friendsofminuteman.org
Again, I cannot thank Jayne Gordon enough for showing me around Concord and sharing her passion for history. I appreciated my short time with Maria Madison of the Robbins House and Robert Morris of the Friends of Minuteman National Park. Both are breaking new ground and supporting preservation and interpretation of the events surrounding spring 1775. These are the people on the front lines and that meshes well with one of the established goals of Emerging Revolutionary War is to share and promote these public history organizations. They are instrumental in telling the story of the American Revolution.