Skip to Main Content
The University of Massachusetts Amherst

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


Two tabs in this guide contain bibliographies. Here, in "Getting Started," you will find books and articles specifically on the Massachusetts sections of the Connecticut Valley; another tab, "Further Reading," contains citations to literature about African American history across the state and region.  Also, under many of the tabs to the left are short lists of "Recommended Readings" related to that specific topic area.

Researchers interested in understanding African American History in the three counties (Hampshire, Hampden, and Franklin) that today comprise the local, Massachusetts section of the Connecticut River Valley will likely find it helpful to begin by reading in the existing literature--both historical and genealogical--in this area.  Though much work remains to be done, a growing body of scholarship already recovers and interprets narratives specific to this area.  Below you will find two bibliographies: 1) a brief set of "how-to" articles available online, and 2) a bibliography of scholarship specifically on African American history here in the Massachusetts section of the Connecticut Valley.

Bibliography on How To Research Histories of Enslavement and Black Lives in 17th-19th Century New England

Hardesty, Jared Ross. "Researching Slavery and Black Life in Early New England: An Introduction." The Atlantic Black Box Project, February 11, 2021.

Smith, Robyn. The Best of Reclaiming Kin: Helpful Tips on Researching Your Roots. BlackPast, October 12, 2015.


Bibliography of Scholarship on Local African American History

“Abolition in the Valley: The Legacy of African Americans in Florence, MA,” The Rebirth Project, Feb. 27, 2019.

 African American Heritage Trail 1840-1860, Florence, MA (an annotated map).

Bakuli, Ethan. “Abolition in the Valley: The Legacy of African Americans in Florence, MA” The Rebirth Project (2019). 

“Black History in the Town of Amherst, Massachusetts,” produced by students in the UMass Amherst Honors seminar Heritage of the Oppressed.

"Black Neighborhoods in Amherst Center," produced by students in the UMass Amherst Public History Certificate program and Amherst Historical Society. 

Black Springfield Matters: Introduction to New Afrikan urban studies.

Brown, Robert T. "The Payton Family of Westfield: an African-American Success Story." Historical Journal of Massachusetts, 2020.

Burday, Ruth. “Abolition in Deerfield: an Examination of Antislavery Sentiment.” Historic Deerfield Summer Fellowship Paper, 1990.

Carvalho, Joseph III. Black Families in Hampden County, Massachusetts 1650-1865. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2012.

__________. “Uncovering the Stories of Black Families in Springfield and Hampden County, Massachusetts, 1650-1865,” Historical Journal of Massachusetts, 2012.

__________ “Slavery in Westfield: The Documentary Record, 1713-1790” Historical Journal of Massachusetts, 2019.

__________. “John Brown’s Transformation: The Springfield Years, 1846-1849,” Historical Journal of Massachusetts, 2020.

Colton, Richard. “African-American workers played role in Springfield Armory history,” The Republican, February 16, 2014.

Congdon, Elizabeth A.  "Calvin T. Swan, African-American Carpenter in Rural Massachusetts."  In Peter Benes and Jane Montague Benes, eds., Slavery/antislavery in New England. Boston University, 2005.

Cunningham, Keily. “Adoration vs. Silence: Abolition in Deerfield." Historic Deerfield Summer Fellowship Paper,  2018.

Davis-Harris, Jeanette G. “Springfield’s Ethnic Heritage: The Black Community—An Interpretation of the Black History of Springfield, Massachusetts from the mid-1600’s through 1940.”  U.S.A. Centennial Committee of Springfield, 1982. 

DiCarlo, Ella Merkel. “The Black Community in Holyoke: 1770s to 1970s.”  (MA Thesis, American International College, 1974).

Drinkwater, Bob. In Memory of Susan Freedom: Searching for Gravestones of African Americans in Western Massachusetts. Levellers Press, 2020.

Gerzina, Gretchen Holbrook, Mr. and Mrs. Prince: How an Extraordinary Eighteenth-Century Family Moved Out of Slavery and Into Legend. Amistad Books/Harper Collins, 2008.

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

Kazini, Imani. “Black Springfield: A Historical Study.” Contributions in Black Studies: A Journal in African and Afro-American Studies Vol. 1 (1977): 5-14.

Lazaro, Ned and Barbara Mathews. "Picturing Slavery: Clothing, Appearance, and New England Advertisements for Run-Away Enslaved Men During the 18th Century" The Village Broadside: The Blog of Historic Deerfield, August 14, 2020.

Laurie, Bruce. ‘Chaotic Freedom’ in Civil War Louisiana: The Origins of an Iconic Image. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Review), 2021.

Laurie, Bruce.  Rebels in Paradise: Sketches of Northampton Abolitionists.  University of Massachusetts Press, 2015.

Leavitt, Sarah A. "The African American Presence in 19th-century Deerfield." Historic Deerfield Summer Fellowship Paper, 1991.

Martin, Anthony. On the Landscape for a Very, Very Long Time: African American Resistance and Resilience in 19th and Early 20th Century Massachusetts. PhD Dissertaton, UMass Amherst, 2017.

Miller, Amy. “Human Bondage in Colonial New England: Rev. Stephen Williams and his Slaves.” Historic Deerfield Summer Fellowship Paper, 2006.

Miller, Marla R. Entangled Lives: Labor, Livelihood, and Landscapes of Change in Rural Massachusetts. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019.

McCoy, Laura. “How Can a Slave Perform the Duties of a Husband to a Wife or Parent to His Child?: Fornication, Family and Slavery in 17th-18th Century Puritan Massachusetts.” Historic Deerfield Summer Fellowship Paper, 2010.

Moon, Jennifer. “Master and Servant: Slavery in 18th Century Deerfield.” Historic Deerfield Summer Fellowship Paper, 1987.

Pan-African Museum USA (PAHMUSA). "The Early Black Experience in Massachusetts (Springfield, MA)."

Pan-African Museum USA (PAHMUSA). "The African American Heritage Trail (Springfield)"

Romer, Robert. “Higher Education and Slavery in Western Massachusetts” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education no. 46 (Winter2004/2005).

Romer, Robert. Slavery in the Connecticut Valley of Massachusetts. Levellers Press, 2009.

Smith, James Avery. The History of the Black Population of Amherst, Massachusetts, 1728-1870. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1999.

"Springfield’s Black Community in 1850” and “Abolitionism in Springfield” (Pan-African Museum of the United States, Springfield, MA) n.d.: 1-15. 

Phaneuf, Wayne E, et al. The Struggle for Freedom: The History of African Americans in Western Massachusetts. Pediment Publishing, 2013.

Viles, Chance, and Kristin Palpini. “Forgotten: Springfield’s Black History Is Nowhere In Sight.” Valley Advocate, June 5, 2017.

Wade, Harold Jr. Black Men of Amherst. Amherst College Press, 1976.

Warren, Wendy.  New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America.  W.W. Norton & Co., 2016.

Wilson, Rob. “Crossing Gender and Color Lines at the Springfield Armory: Women and African Americans Changing the WWII Industrial Workplace.” past@present, UMass Amherst Department of History, March 24, 2016.

Ziegenbein, Linda M. Inhabiting Spaces, Making Places: Creating a Spatial and Material Biography of David Ruggles. PhD Dissertation, UMass Amherst, 2017.