African American Heritage
Explore Vermont's Black History
Now visitors and Vermonters alike can learn about Black history and heritage in Vermont. The Vermont African American Heritage Trail explores their stories and those of some of their fellow Vermonters. The guide takes visitors to Vermont museums and cultural sites where exhibits, films, tours and personal explorations illuminate the lives of African Americans for whom the Green Mountain State was part of their identity. Visitors meet teachers, storytellers, activists, ministers and legislators who bring this important history to life.
VERMONT'S ROKEBY MUSEUM STEWARDS UNDERGROUND RAILROAD HISTORY
Ferrisburgh’s Rokeby Museum is a stop along the African American Heritage Trail, and celebrates Vermont’s history on the Underground Railroad, helping enslaved people find their way to freedom. Visitors can tour the home and farm of Quaker abolitionists Rowland and Rachel Robinson and the multimedia exhibit that introduces two fugitives from slavery who were sheltered at Rokeby in the 1830s.
Vermont's Underground Railroad
The phrase “Underground Railroad” began surfacing in Vermont newspapers and written correspondence as early as 1840. Evidence seems to indicate Underground Railroad efforts in Fugitives were helped between houses by word of mouth and the strength of Vermont communities, often carrying letters explaining where they came from and what they needed. Many settled in Vermont for good, enriching the state’s communities and economies.
The Vermont African American Heritage Trail introduces visitors to just some of the stories of the people who made their homes in Vermont, including Lucy Terry Prince, America’s first African American poet. There’s also Eliza Healy, who was born into slavery in Macon, Georgia, in 1846, became the first African American mother superior of a Catholic convent, and Daisy Turner, a black woman who fought for justice for her father in court and painstakingly recorded her family's black history.
Clemmons Family Farm
2213-2158 Greenbush Rd., Charlotte, VT 05445
The 148-acre historic Clemmons Family Farm is one of the largest African American farms in Vermont. As a heritage and multicultural center, the farm blends agriculture with African American and African American diaspoa arts and culture events and storytelling.
Vermont Folklife Center
88 Main St., Middlebury, VT 05753
The folklife archive houses the Turner Family Collection, consisting of audio and video recordings, photographers, and histories that detail the life of Daisy Turner, the daughter of ex-slaves who settled in Grafton in 1873. Daisy's captivating account covers slavery, plantation life, escape, the Civil War, battling racism, and creating a family center in Vermont.
31 Townshend Rd., Grafton, VT 05146
Immerse yourself in the remarkable story of formerly enslaved Alec turner, and the family's powerful connection to the land in the hill farming community with visits to the Turner Hill Interpretive Center, Grafton History Museum, and Birchdale Camp at Journey's End.
HILDENE, THE LINCOLN FAMILY HOME
1005 Hildene Rd., Manchester, VT 05254
1905 home of Robert Lincoln, son of the Great Emancipator Abraham Lincoln and president of the Pullman Palace Car Company. The provocative exhibit "Many Voices" features a restored 1903 Pullman car and highlights the story of black porters who played a significant role in the company's success and the Civil Rights Movement.
4334 U.S. Rt. 7, Ferrisburgh, VT 05456
The exhibit "Free & Safe: The Underground Railroad in Vermont" chronicles the stories of Simon and Jesse, two fugitives from slavery who found shelter in the 1830s at Rokeby. The story introduces the abolitionist Robinson family and explores the turbulent decades leading up to the Civil War.
RIVER STREET CEMETERY & MARSH-BILLINGS-ROCKEFELLER NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
54 Elm St., Woodstock, VT 05091
River Street Cemetery contains the graves of eight African American veterans of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment who fought for the Union during the Civil War. The national par offers ranger-and self-guided tours of Woodstock's Civil War and abolitionist history.
JUSTIN S. MORRILL STATE HISTORIC SITE
214 Justin Morrill Hwy., Strafford, VT 05072
Justin Morrill sponsored the Land-Grants College Act, which granted public lands to universities. In 1890, the Second Morrill Act forbade racial discrimination in admissions policies for college receiving these federal funds.
To learn more about Vermont’s African American history, check out these books and archives:
The Swift-Stewart Research Center at the Henry Sheldon Museum in Middlebury holds a rich collection of materials that highlight the history of slavery and freedom as debated and experienced by 19th-century Vermonters. Also in Middlebury are the Middlebury College Archives that houses the collected letters of abolitionists Rowland Thomas (1796–1879) & Rachel Gilpin Robinson (1799–1862), and the Vermont Folklife Center’s audio recordings of Daisy Turner (1883-1988.) The Clemmons Family Farm, among Vermont's oldest and largest Black-owned farms, stewards a collection of storytelling and history of the African diaspora in Vermont, and The Vermont Historical Society has culminated a list of people and places that have impacted Vermont’s history, culture, and landscape.
Books of note include: Daisy’s Turner’s Kin: An African American Family Saga by Jane Beck (University of Illinois Press, 2015); Discovering Black Vermont: African American Farmers in Hinesburgh, 1790-1890 by Elise Guyette (University Press of New England, 2010); and Vermont Women, Native Americans & African Americans: Out of the Shadow of History by Cynthia Bittinger (The History Press, 2012); The Blind African Slave, or Memoirs of Boyrereau Brinch, Nicknamed Jeffrey Brace, by Jeffrey Brace as told to Benjamin F. Prentiss (edited Kari J. Winter, University of Wisconsin Presse, 2005).
AFRICAN AMERICAN HERITAGE TRAIL
All 22 historic markers, museums and stops on the Vermont African American Heritage Trail are highlighted in this map. Click any for directions. Explore just a few or all 22 as you learn more about the Black Vermonters who made our state great.