Week 8 | More Than Surviving

This week has been interesting—ups and downs and all arounds. I was able to dig into the research more and started to uncover some idiosyncrasies in the types of events that can be captured. Some of the petitions signed by Wampanoag activists, for example, were part of larger campaigns that spanned the state and sometimes country (Ex. Against the annexation of Florida and Texas). In these instances more than one Wampanoag community may have participated and so that needed to be reflected on the map. That has implications for the structure of the database, data entry, and formatting. We were able to diagram out a few scenarios and determined potential solutions to help streamline the research, notations, and data structure. It’s been interesting watching the shape of things evolve and needing to make adjustments as we go along—learning is fully activated.

On the “up” side I was able to uncover evidence of Wampanoag ancestry of an important historic figure who I had strongly suspected of being of our community. After hunting through genealogy archives, petitions, and various New England historic society documents I had a major breakthrough. I am now 99% sure that Mary J. “Polly” Johnson, a prominent member of New Bedford society, active member in the anti-slavery movement, participant in the Underground Railroad and host to Frederick Douglass when he first arrived to freedom is in fact Wampanoag likely on both sides of her parentage. Due to various spellings of her parents names (Isaac vs. Isaiah Anna vs. Hannah) her connection to her parents and siblings is somewhat obscured in the records. Her brothers went on to marry into the Wampanoag community in Aquinnah (Martha’s Vineyard) and one even went into business with another prominent Wampanoag family (the Cuffes). So that just knocked my socks off…and made me incredibly angry. I, again, had to face just how pervasive the erasure of our presence has been and see so much work laid out before me to contribute to our reinstatement in public history.

It only reinforces the importance of this work, and I continue to be incredible thankful for the resourceful brilliant team helping to get this project off the ground.