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Northampton Fifth-Graders Learn About Florence’s Abolitionist History

This fall, Grow Food Northampton together with the David Ruggles Center hosted 5th graders from all the Northampton Public Elementary schools for a historical field trip about the Abolitionist history of Florence. We led students on a walking tour where we shared stories about the Abolitionists of Florence who shaped their lives around resisting slavery and creating alternative ways of life in the 19th century.

In our Lydia Maria Child Garden plot at the Grow Food Northampton Community Garden, we separated flax fibers by hand to get a feel for the soft strands of raw linen underneath. We harvested sugar beets as we discussed how they were grown as a tool for resistance by David and Lydia Maria Child in the 19th century to boycott sugarcane grown with enslaved labor.

Students brought home a sticker and a book mark with some facts about Lydia Maria Child.

We stopped at the Ross Homestead, a house listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, for its part in the Underground Railroad. We made our way through the Pine Street Cemetery, learning about the Abolitionists and utopian community members who were buried there. We stopped at Sojourner Truth’s house, a home that she paid off with the funds from her narrative. Our walks ended at Truth’s majestic statue on Pine Street, all in the span of an hour!

How can we shape our own lives to stand for what we believe in? What can we grow in our gardens today that can be used for activism, like David and Lydia Maria Child’s sugar beets? What actions can we take to stand up to the injustices of our time?  These are questions that we hope we can wrestle with, and learn from as we explore the rich history of Florence and its residents. 

If you are interested in learning more about this local history, visit the David Ruggles Center’s website. Later this month Historic Northampton and the David Ruggles Center are co-sponsoring an event on Lydia Maria Child: Learn more here! 

Lydia Maria Child: A Radical American Life

Wednesday, November 30, 2022 | 7 pm

A Zoom Presentation by Professor Lydia Moland

Sugar beets and flax in the summer.
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