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New guide maps out Black history in Essex County

The free online guide produced by the National Park Service for Black History Month includes research conducted at local historical societies, museums and other organizations in Essex County.

In the late 1870′s, an ice cream business was established by the Hinton family in Andover after Allen Hinton had migrated to the town north of Boston during the Civil War from North Carolina.

The business was a success, and their daughter, Alice, took over when her parents died. At the National Negro Business League meeting in Boston in 1915, Alice gave a speech called, “How I Have Carried on the Ice Cream Business Established by My Mother and Father,” winning praise from Booker T. Washington, founder of the organization.

The Hinton Family’s story is one of many included in a new online resource called “African Americans in Essex County: An Annotated Guide,” published by the National Park Service, which manages historic sites in Salem and Saugus.


The park service released the free guide in February as part of its celebration of Black History Month, which ends today.

Emily Murphy, curator and historian for the Salem Maritime and Saugus Iron Works national historic sites, said the guide aims “to create a better sense of what the African American community in Essex County might have looked like across time.”

The Hinton family’s story is an example of one family’s success, one author said.

“It’s a heartwarming story and a wonderful testament to Black entrepreneurship,” said Kabria Baumgartner, an associate professor of history and Africana studies at Northeastern University.

Baumgartner, and co-author Elizabeth Duclos-Orsello, and a group of students and independent researchers visited 20 repositories to research and collect stories from the late 1700s to late 1900s of African Americans in Essex County.

Researchers spent two years, using a $100,000 grant to the park service, to unearth new information and stories about Black life in one of Massachusetts’ oldest counties. Stories of how Blacks shaped life in some of the county’s largest cities, including Lawrence, Lynn, and Salem, are recounted.


But researcher’s efforts were hindered by a lack of information available about historically marginalized communities, but that also sparked a new sense of creativity, Baumgartner said.

“So, we embraced the idea of imperfect archives, which required us to be imaginative and innovative as we searched for primary source materials,” she said. “But we knew that the presence and lived experiences of African Americans in Essex County were not totally hidden.”

Murphy said it was surprising that so much information was found because of past efforts to erase Black history, including removing records of enslaved people as the abolitionist movement started in New England.

“But they’re still there,” she said. “It just takes a little while to find them. It may be as simple as a single mention in a receipt or a deed in the Essex County deed books, but they’re there.”

Moving forward, the guide is to be used as “a beginning,” of research into the Black history of Essex County, Murphy said. They hope the information will be used by schools, historic and cultural organizations for exhibitions, projects and everyday learning.

“This is not intended to be the last word on the subject in any way, shape or form,” Murphy said. “We hope that this is a beginning, that this is going to encourage scholars to maybe look in some of the smaller historical societies that they may overlook to find some of these stories.”


Madison Mercado can be reached at madison.mercado@globe.com.