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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Researching the Early History of Black Lives in the Connecticut River Valley


While the graves of African Americans who died in the 17th and 18th centuries are less likely to be marked with headstones than White members of Valley communities, those numbers rose in the 19th century, and it is possible to find graves that fill in the picture of Black Valley residents in life and in death

Gravestone inscriptions provide birth and death information and offer family relationship clues. However, as primary sources, gravestone inscriptions can contain errors. Genealogical and historical societies and various individuals have transcribed and published cemetery inscriptions. The Systematic Series of Massachusetts vital records relied on information from headstones and other sources. Printed town records and histories sometimes contain epitaphs. Tombstone decorations offer insight into the deceased's economic status, occupation, religious affiliation, interests, and organizational memberships.

Selected Materials in the W.E.B. DuBois Library Collection

Amherst College Archives

Amherst College Church and Chapel Records: Records of the Church of Christ in Amherst College and other Christian religious activity on campus from the founding of the college to the mid-twentieth century. Included in the collection are records of Amherst student involvement in Zion Chapel/Hope Church, an African-American church in the town of Amherst. The collection includes manuscript records, correspondence, printed material, and books.

Historic Deerfield

First Church in Deerfield Records: Among the Church records are baptismal and marriage records of enslaved people, as well as those admitted as Church members. The library has the records on microfilm. The original books are on deposit in the PVMA Library. M 974.42 D312, 10

Wood Museum of Springfield History

Fullilove Collection -- Memorabilia, photos, news clippings, programs, photo albums, and assorted ephemera related to the Fullilove family and the Third Baptist Church of Springfield.

History Committee of St. John's Congregational Church, Springfield, Mass.  The History of St. John's Congregational Church, 1844-1962.  1962.