Film tells story of NH’s – and Milford’s – role in slavery

MILFORD – The idea of freedom is baked into New Hampshire’s self-image, but the historical reality has not always lived up to the ideal.

Milford, Portsmouth and many other towns have been home to natives of Africa and to African-Americans for centuries, but their stories were often left out of official histories.

On the eve of the American Revolution, in 1775, there were 656 slaves in New Hampshire, most in the Portsmouth area. Almost a century later, African-Americans still worked in slavery or near slavery; at the same time, Milford’s Hutchinson Singers were singing out against slavery, and Milford’s First Congregational Church was hosting Frederick Douglass and other abolitionist speakers.

So how does New Hampshire, a state with the motto "Live Free or Die," deal with its participation in slavery and segregation? Some would say by ignoring its African-American history.

A new full-length documentary called "Shadows Fall North" confronts some of that history and will be shown for the first time in Portsmouth Music Hall on Thursday, May 26.

The film focuses on the recovery of Wilson and other parts of black history in New Hampshire by JerriAnne Boggis, of Milford, founder of the Harriet Wilson Project, and Valerie Cunningham, founder of the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail.

"Shadows Fall North" shows how their work has been central in the push to make black history part of this state’s history.

Filmmaker Nancy Vawter said in a phone interview that she was thrilled to tackle the project.

Film tells story of NH’s – and Milford’s – role in slavery

MILFORD – The idea of freedom is baked into New Hampshire’s self-image, but the historical reality has not always lived up to the ideal.

Milford, Portsmouth and many other towns have been home to natives of Africa and to African-Americans for centuries, but their stories were often left out of official histories.

On the eve of the American Revolution, in 1775, there were 656 slaves in New Hampshire, most in the Portsmouth area. Almost a century later, African-Americans still worked in slavery or near slavery; at the same time, Milford’s Hutchinson Singers were singing out against slavery, and Milford’s First Congregational Church was hosting Frederick Douglass and other abolitionist speakers.

So how does New Hampshire, a state with the motto "Live Free or Die," deal with its participation in slavery and segregation? Some would say by ignoring its African-American history.

A new full-length documentary called "Shadows Fall North" confronts some of that history and will be shown for the first time in Portsmouth Music Hall on Thursday, May 26.

The film focuses on the recovery of Wilson and other parts of black history in New Hampshire by JerriAnne Boggis, of Milford, founder of the Harriet Wilson Project, and Valerie Cunningham, founder of the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail.

"Shadows Fall North" shows how their work has been central in the push to make black history part of this state’s history.

Filmmaker Nancy Vawter said in a phone interview that she was thrilled to tackle the project.

Film tells story of NH’s – and Milford’s – role in slavery

MILFORD – The idea of freedom is baked into New Hampshire’s self-image, but the historical reality has not always lived up to the ideal.

Milford, Portsmouth and many other towns have been home to natives of Africa and to African-Americans for centuries, but their stories were often left out of official histories.

On the eve of the American Revolution, in 1775, there were 656 slaves in New Hampshire, most in the Portsmouth area. Almost a century later, African-Americans still worked in slavery or near slavery; at the same time, Milford’s Hutchinson Singers were singing out against slavery, and Milford’s First Congregational Church was hosting Frederick Douglass and other abolitionist speakers.

So how does New Hampshire, a state with the motto "Live Free or Die," deal with its participation in slavery and segregation? Some would say by ignoring its African-American history.

A new full-length documentary called "Shadows Fall North" confronts some of that history and will be shown for the first time in Portsmouth Music Hall on Thursday, May 26.

The film focuses on the recovery of Wilson and other parts of black history in New Hampshire by JerriAnne Boggis, of Milford, founder of the Harriet Wilson Project, and Valerie Cunningham, founder of the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail.

"Shadows Fall North" shows how their work has been central in the push to make black history part of this state’s history.

Filmmaker Nancy Vawter said in a phone interview that she was thrilled to tackle the project.