I encourage you to “go local” this month; by learning the history of Blacks in your own town. If you live in Exeter, why not introduce yourself to the poems of James Monroe Whitfield, who was born on Whitfield’s Lane, now renamed Elliot Street?
Did you know that this April is the 200th birthday of this Exeter-born Black man who published a book of poems in 1853? And did you know that his book America; and other poems” is held by the Library of Congress as an important part of American history and culture?
What local Black history might your town have “de-emphasized”? No better time than now to give it a homecoming.
In 2020, Whitfield was included in the anthology “African-American Poetry; 250 years of struggle and song.” This spring, his 200th bday will be honored at the Saturday, April 2, 2022 Exeter LitFest. Another local poet, Willie Perdomo, who was also included in the anthology, will bridge past and present by reading both a poem of Whitfield’s and a poem of his own. It will be like a bit of time-travel.
Why not look up Whitfield on Wikipedia, read him online, or at the Exeter Public Library? If you don’t read poetry – how about some light reading on him instead? I wrote a series of historical-fiction cozy caper mysteries set in Exeter that feature a few of our past residents.
Whitfield is profiled in my book “Incident at Ioka” which is for sale at Water Street Bookstore (or here https://www.amazon.com/Incident-Ioka-Maryvonne-Mini-Mystery/dp/0988374439 ).
Other books profile Jude Hall, a Revolutionary War soldier, and John G. Cutler. Both men are now on Wikipedia. Yes, they have “come home” too!