Medford has long made no secret of its historical ties to the institution of slavery. One doesn’t have to look far for proof that the city was once home to the largest slave trader in Massachusetts; that its produced rum that was shipped and traded for African slaves; or that dwellings still stand that housed those in bondage.
“Slavery goes back to Medford’s founding,” said Tufts University anthropology associate professor Rosalind Shaw, who in 2003 produced with Tufts students an exhibit on the city’s ties to the infamous trade.
“Our colonies’ economies were significantly relevant to the slave trade,” she said.
Shaw pointed to five examples that spoke to the city’s slave-related past and might be worthy of a visit — whether on the Web or in person — as Black History Month begins.
The ‘Golden Triangle of Trade’ mural
Main US Post Office, 20 Forest St.
Above the service counter, visitors will find a colorful, three-panel mural created in 1939 that portrays Medford’s integral tie as a rum-producing center to the slave trade. Henry Billings was hired by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal Works Progress Administration to paint the mural.
‘The Slave Wall,’
or Pomp’s Wall
Grove Street (north of High Street)
An enslaved African named Pomp built the wall in 1765 as part of the decorative entrance to the stately home on the Brooks Estate in West Medford. In 1660, Thomas Brooks bought the original 400 acres and turned it into a working farm. A portion of the original wall still stands and is marked by a Medford Historical Society plaque.
Slave Trade Letters
Medford Historical Society
10 Governors Ave.
Online versions of the original letters written by Medford-based slave trader Timothy Fitch from 1759 to 1765 to the ship captains operating his fleet. The collection also includes inventory of slave cargo and the amounts they were sold for at public auction.
at Condon Shell Park
2501 Mystic Valley Parkway
Between the Condon band shell and the adjacent parking lot, visitors will find three 7-foot-high panels that tell the story of Medford, including details on the city’s tie to the African slave trade. The panels were erected by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation in 2011.
The Royall House & Slave Quarters
15 George St.
This site was home to the Royalls — the largest slave-holding family in Massachusetts — and to more than 60 enslaved Africans from Antigua who worked there. Purchased by Isaac Royall in 1732, it includes the only surviving free-standing slave quarters north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Compiled by Clennon L. King.