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Opening Celebration! Unnamed Figures: Black Presence and Absence in the Early American North


May 4
9:00 am - 4:30 pm


Historic Deerfield
80 Old Main Street
Deerfield, MA 01342 United States

Image: Artist Unidentified. Woman in Striped Dress and Man with Plaid Bowtie. Burns Collection & Archive.

As a corrective to histories that define slavery and anti-Black racism as a largely Southern issue, this exhibition offers a new window onto Black representation in a region that is often overlooked in narratives of early African American history.

Through 97 remarkable works including paintings, needlework, and photographs, this exhibition invites visitors to focus on figures who appear in—or are omitted from—early American images and will challenge conventional narratives that have minimized early Black histories in the North, revealing the complexities and contradictions of the region’s history between the late 1600s and early 1800s.

Opening Celebration Activities

The opening celebration will take place on Saturday, May 4th at Hall Tavern, the Flynt Center, and other locations along the street.

Stoneware Pottery Demonstration by Mark Shapiro

Shapiro has done extensive research on Thomas W. Commeraw, a free Black potter of early New York. Shapiro will be demonstrating some of Commeraw’s decorative techniques.

Powder Horn Carving Demonstration by Laurie McCarthy

McCarthy is an artist and reenactor. She will demonstrate powder horn carving and incorporate a design from a horn attributed to John Bush, an African American carver from Shrewsbury, MA.

Wilson Printing Office with Printer-in-Residence Martin Antonetti

Several printed pieces will be on display in the exhibition and Antonetti will demonstrate printing. Visitors will be able to take away and complete their own printed pamphlet.

Open Hearth Cooking Demonstration featuring Pickled Oysters

Come to the kitchen in Hall Tavern where we will pickle oysters and put them in a reproduction oyster jar made by Mark Shapiro and inspired by one designed by Thomas W Commeraw, a free Black potter of early New York.

Family Program – Swirls and Swags: Fun with Ceramic Designs

We open for the season with a family-friendly activity inspired by the designs of Thomas Commeraw. Decorate ceramics in his style!

Exhibition Tour

Enjoy a Highlights Tour of the Exhibit with a museum guide.

Slavery and Freedom in 18th-Century Deerfield Walking Tour

Tours depart from the Flynt Center of Early New England Life.