By HELEN SMITH/Montana State News
Most Americans have heard African American history from the southern point of view. It seems there is a different side to this story in the north.
Most history begins with the account of the first slave ship arriving in Virginia in 1619. This version does not tell of how slave traders bringing the first slaves to Massachusetts were arrested by the Puritan/Pilgrim government. These slaves were allowed to return to Africa. According to historian David Barton, most students are taught the “bad and ugly” of history rather than positive aspects.
Very few have heard of men like Wentworth Cheswell. Considered the first African American elected to office in New Hampshire in 1768, Cheswell was the first black landowner in New Hampshire. At age 21, Cheswell was already well established. He was even a stalwart in his church. In 1767, he married Mary Davis and the couple eventually had 13 children.
He was later chosen to be a part of the Committee of Safety: the top intelligence network of the American Revolution. Cheswell joined the Light Horse Volunteers and he played a part in the victory at the battle of Saratoga defeating the British and General Burgoyne.
After military service, Cheswell soon became an unofficial state archeologist for the state of New Hampshire and historian for the town of Newmarket, and he was also elected as an overseer for Newmarket schools. In 1817, Cheswell died of Typhus fever at age 71. A little known story of America’s founders was left.
Before the revolution, most American colonies had anti-slavery laws vetoed by Great Britain. Blacks often voted in Massachusetts colonial elections. Barton also points out that more blacks voted in the ratification of the Maryland constitution in Baltimore. This does not seem to be common knowledge today.
– Edited by Sabrina Hayes