Understanding history through story, building community through conversation.
Coming soon: The Diseased Ship Podcast
Gold dust, they’d said they were after. But when the surviving crew of the Ten Brothers docked this majestic ship in Boston Harbor back in 1819, one year after setting sail for West Africa, customs officials found no gold in the hold, just clouds of mosquitoes playing host to a deadly yellow fever virus. The rest, we usually say, is history… only in this case, it’s not. Host Meadow Hilley had to stumble upon the bare bones of this long-forgotten episode in New England’s maritime past at the bottom of a 200-year-old grave. The Diseased Ship is a gripping first-person account of her struggle to reconstruct this ill-fated voyage in the face of her own illness. Inviting scholars, cultural critics, and community members to consider the ways in which this hidden history relates to our current national conversations about race, privilege, identity, and access to the “American dream,” Meadow asks listeners to reflect on what we might make of a malignancy that has taken root so close to our heart, exploring the possibility for individual and collective recovery.
About the Black Box
The Cape Cod Black Box Project is a community-based historical research initiative that relies on an “enlightened crowdsourcing” model. Its aim is to empower interested community members—whether high school students or retired senior citizens or anyone in between—to conduct research into the maritime history of Cape Cod and the Islands and to share their findings with others thanks to an online database, a well-resourced website, and a dynamic social media presence.
Supporting this community effort is a coalition of scholars, archivists, reference librarians, academic institutions, and other community organizations from around New England. Their input and guidance will be invaluable to us along the way.
Help us to unearth Cape Cod’s forgotten history. There are so many stories buried right here under a thin layer of sand that uncovering them all will truly take a village—or a whole bunch of them.
This page will serve as our initial repository, a place where we can all share what we’re learning.
what have you found? what did it take to find it? what did it feel like uncovering this history? what do you make of it?
A couple summers back, I fell into an empty grave. That’s what it felt like, anyway, when a chance encounter with a headstone in my hometown of Brewster, Massachusetts forced me to ask a question that had never once in forty-three years occurred to me. Could the Cape Cod sea captains have been involved in the slave trade?
Local & Regional History Digitization Projects & Collections
The Provincetown History Preservation Project
Assessing and digitizing documents in the town’s care to create greater access to valuable and significant historical information and to ensure that important documents related to Provincetown’s history will be preserved for informational and research purposes today and in the future.
African Americans and the End of Slavery in Massachusetts
Massachusetts Historical Society brings together historical manuscripts and rare published works that serve as a window upon the lives of African Americans in Massachusetts from the late seventeenth century through the abolition of slavery under the Massachusetts Constitution in the 1780s.
Voyages: The Transatlantic Slave Trade Database The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database has information on almost 36,000 slaving voyages that forcibly embarked over 10 million Africans for transport to the Americas between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Shipindex.org ShipIndex.org tells you which books, magazines, and online resources mention the vessels you’re researching. 153,649 entries in the free database, 3,159,372 entries available with premium access.
Boston Marine Insurance Company Records
1797-1839. This collection consists of records of the Boston Marine Insurance Company, including correspondence, accounts, and 65 volumes of financial, legal, investment, and policy records, as well as letters by company presidents. Massachusetts Historical Society, 1154 Boylston StreetBoston, MA 02215.
Barnstable Patriot Digital Newspaper Archive
The Barnstable Patriot began publication with its first weekly issue on June 26, 1830. The Patriot is the oldest continuous, uninterrupted publication in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, and is the seventh oldest newspaper in the United States.
Slavery’s Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development. Sven Beckert and Seth Rockman, Editors, 2016
United States and the Transatlantic Slave Trade to the Americas, 1776-1867. Leonardo Marques, 2016.
Sons of Providence: The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution. Charles Rappleye, 2007.
New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America.
Wendy Warren, 2016.
The Politics of the Second Slavery. Dale W. Tomich Editor, 2016.
The Slave Ship: A Human History. Marcus Rediker, 2007.
The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom.
Marcus Rediker, 2012.
The Voyage of the Slave Ship Hare: A Journey into Captivity from Sierra Leone to South Carolina. Sean M. Kelley, 2016.
Dark Places of the Earth: The Voyage of the Slave Ship Antelope.
Jonathan M. Bryant, 2015.
The Notorious Triangle: Rhode Island and the African Slave Trade, 1700-1807. Jay Coughtry, 1981.
Black Walden: Slavery and Its Aftermath in Concord, Massachusetts.
Elise Lemire, 2009.
Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery.
Anne Farrow, Joel Lang, Jenifer Frank, 2005.
Ten Hills Farm: The Forgotten History of Slavery in the North.
C. S. Manegold, 2011.
Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and “Race” in New England, 1780–1860.
Joanne Pope Melish, 1998.
Ship of Death: A Voyage that Changed the Atlantic World. Billy G. Smith, 2013.
The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism.
Edward E. Baptist, 2014.
How Do You Teach Slavery?
From NPR’s 1A. Slavery played a major role in America’s development, but a new study shows students don’t know much about it. One recent textbook referred to enslaved people as ‘workers’ … which suggests some schools still struggle to teach this topic. It’s hard history, but is there an easy fix? And what’s at stake if it’s not figured out?
MassMoments Teacher Resources
Mass Moments resources consist of three units for high school, two for the upper elementary and middle-school level, and suggestions for third-grade classrooms, where Massachusetts history appears in the state frameworks for history and social science.