Book Signing: Author Ann-Elizabeth Barnes hosted a signing of her new book entitled; The Rev. Samuel Harrison.
Ann-Elizabeth Barnes discusses her book “The Rev. Samuel Harrison: Abolitionist, Activist, and Chaplain of the Massachusetts 54th, the First Black Regiment Raised in the North to fight in the Civil War” on Sunday, July 16, from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at the Samuel Harrison House in Pittsfield. There will be a reading as well as Q & A followed by a book signing.
Samuel Harrison was born in Philadelphia in 1818 to enslaved parents. When he was three years old he and his parents were given their freedom. Called to the ministry, his first posting was to the Second Congregational Church in Pittsfield, MA, in 1850. Known as an ardent abolitionist, he was appointed the Chaplain of the 54th Regiment, the first Black regiment raised in the North to fight in the Civil War. He also worked for the National Freedmen’s Relief Society.
Ann-Elizabeth Barnes spent most of her childhood in New York City and Switzerland and then lived in Europe for 12 years, primarily in Switzerland. She has lived in South Egremont, MA, since 1981. As a historic site interpreter for two historic Berkshire County homes, she discovered the story of Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman, the enslaved African woman who successfully sued for her freedom in 1781. Because of her case and one other, Massachusetts banned slavery two years later. In 2009, Ms. Barnes co-wrote with Jana Laiz the children’s book "A Free Woman on God's Earth," based on Mumbet’s life. She also developed a school program for elementary school students to bring the 18th century alive by telling the story of Mumbet and providing activities. In its seventeenth year, the program has been held in all elementary schools in South Berkshire County, including Pittsfield.
In 2005 and 2007, she participated in two National Endowment for the Humanities “We the People” grants: “The Shaping Role of Place in African American Biography” and “Of Migrations and Renaissance(s) in Harlem NY and South Side Chicago 1915-1975,” both submitted by Frances Jones-Sneed, professor of history at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA). The purpose of the grants was to provide information about the roles people of African descent played in the making of America, especially in Berkshire County.
The event will be held at The Samuel Harrison House on Third Street in Pittsfield, MA 01201. The Samuel Harrison House is a nonprofit museum that was once the of Samuel Harrison and his family for 42 years. It was built by Samuel Harrison and is very much the style of Early 19th Century colonial style home.
St. John's Congregational Church presented the documentary as part of their 165th Anniversary celebration. The Rev. Samuel Harrison was a former Pastor of St. John's from 1866 to 1870. The Massachusetts 54th Color Guard will be performing a flag presentation at the beginning of each worship service on Sunday, November 15th, 2009.
The Birthday Party will be held from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Second Congregational Church, 50 Onota Street, Pittsfield. The celebration will feature special guest speaker Byron Rushing from the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Rev. Dr. James Lumsden and his band from First Church of Christ Congregational in Pittsfield, Between the Banks will provide a musical selection. The event will include performances by the Gospel Choir of Second Congregational Church. Immediately following the service, there will be a performance by the Youth Alive Inc. Step-Dance Team in the Church Fellowship Hall. Birthday cake and beverages will follow the celebration. The event is free and open to the public. The Birthday Party is sponsored by
The Samuel Harrison Society, a non-profit organization, whose mission is to restore and preserve Rev. Harrison’s homestead; and use it as a place to teach the values embodied by his noble life, his enduring beliefs, his extraordinary writings; and to define a chapter in the story of us as a people by providing greater insight into African-American history.
Friday, August 22 at 10 a.m. the Samuel Harrison Society hosts a groundbreaking ceremony for the Samuel Harrison House, 82 Third Street, Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The house, longtime home to renowned African-American equal rights advocate Reverend Samuel Harrison (1818-1900), is a National Register of Historic Places landmark, a National Parks Service "Save America's Treasures" Preservation project, and a Massachusetts Historical Commission Preservation project. The ceremony is free and open to the public. State Senator Benjamin Downing and State Representative Christopher Speranzo are expected to attend.
The preservation and restoration of the Samuel Harrison House began in May 2004 when Ruth Edmonds Hill, great-granddaughter of the Reverend Samuel Harrison traveled with her husband, Dr. Hugh M. Hill, to Pittsfield from Cambridge by train to meet with a small group of Pittsfielders interested in saving the Samuel Harrison House, including Mayor James M. Ruberto, Ivan Newton, historian of the Second Congregational Church, and Susan Denault, archivist from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Ruth's intuition that her family homestead had historic value saved the modest 19th century house in one of Pittsfield's oldest neighborhoods known as Morningside from the wrecking ball. She had notified the Massachusetts Historical Commission of her great-grandfather's lifelong pioneering spirit and they, in turn, denied the city's request to demolish the deteriorating structure. At just about the same time, filmmaker Mike Kirk was producing a documentary "A Trumpet at The Walls of Jericho: The Untold Story of Samuel Harrison" which aired on PBS in February of 2005.
Rev. Samuel Harrison, an African-American minister born into slavery and living from 1818 to 1900, was a pioneering civil rights activist, an ardent abolitionist, and an eloquent orator and writer. Rev. Harrison was the first minister of the Second Congregational Church, Pittsfield, founded in 1846, a church exclusively for persons of color.
Rev. Harrison interrupted his ministry at the Second Congregational Church when he was commissioned by Governor John Albion Andrew who encouraged President Abraham Lincoln to create the first black Civil War regiment. During his service, Rev. Harrison learned that the paymaster refused to pay the men of the 54th Regiment the same amount paid to white troops because they were of "African descent." Rev. Harrison immediately pleaded their case to Governor Andrew who vigorously and repeatedly petitioned President Lincoln to honor the claim for equal pay. In June 1864, legislation requiring equal pay was passed in the army appropriations bill. In his autobiography, Rev. Harrison writes that it was suggested during his brief military service that he was "the victim upon whom the whole matter of equal pay would turn."
Two years after his death, a tablet commemorating his forty years of ministering to Pittsfield's African-Americans was placed at the Second Congregational Church with the inscription: "A Wise Leader, An Honored Citizen, An Ardent Patriot, A Beloved Messenger of the Lord; he wrought well for his people, his Country and his God."
The Samuel Harrison Society's very first champion was U.S. Congressman John Olver, who secured a Save America's Treasures matching grant in the amount of $246,000. Congressman Olver's significant support validated the Society's belief that that the house is an historic asset that needs preserving and launched a collaboration of efforts by Mayor James M. Ruberto, State Representative Christopher Speranzo and State Senator Ben Downing.
"The Samuel Harrison Society is extraordinarily grateful to Ruth for trusting our stewardship of her family homestead. We are committed to honoring Harrison family history by restoring and preserving Reverend Harrison's homestead; using it as a place to teach the values embodied in his noble life, his enduring beliefs, his extraordinary writings; and to define a chapter in the story of us as a people by providing greater insight into African-American history. We have a significant, yet still undiscovered, piece of national history and civic pride right here in Pittsfield, Massachusetts," states Samuel Harrison Society President Linda Tyer. She continued, "It is with great pride that we have achieved this milestone - a groundbreaking. And we anticipate with enthusiasm a day in the not too distant future when we welcome our first visitors to the Samuel Harrison House."
Tuesday, June 26PITTSFIELD — The historic Samuel Harrison homestead has received $50,000 in state funding.
The announcement came yesterday from the offices of state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, and state Rep. Christopher N. Speranzo, D-Pittsfield.
"This funding helps continue the restoration and renovation of a project that is important not only for its historical significance in Berkshire County, but for the rehabilitation of a neighborhood in Pittsfield," Speranzo said in a news release.
Built in 1850, the Samuel Harrison House was gifted to the Society by Ruth Edmonds Hill, great-granddaughter of the Rev. Samuel Harrison.
Harrison was a former slave who fought for the Union in the Civil War and won the right for equal pay for black and white soldiers serving in the Union Army.
He also served as chaplain for the famous Massachusetts 54th Regiment whose exploits are recounted in the film "Glory," and became the pastor for Pittsfield's Second Congregational Church.
The funds will provide a large portion of the 50 percent match required for the $246,322 Save America's Treasures grant awarded the Samuel Harrison Society from the National Park.
On Wednesday, February 28, 2007, the Samuel Harrison Society will celebrate Black History Month by donating a copy of the documentary “A Trumpet at the Walls of Jericho: The Untold Story of Samuel Harrison” to each Pittsfield Public School library. The ceremony, with teachers and students in attendance, will be held at the Pittsfield High School library from 12:45 to 1:25. Dr. Frances Jones-Sneed, Professor of History at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, will give a synopsis of Rev. Samuel Harrison’s historical significance. Ivan Newton, Second Congregational Church Historian will read an excerpt from Rev. Harrison’s autobiography, “Rev. Samuel Harrison. His life story, Told by Himself.” Blayne Whitfield, Samuel Harrison’s great-great grandson, will present the documentary to the Pittsfield school community.
Samuel Harrison (1818-1900), an African-American clergyman, contributed an important voice to the philosophical and political debate over race relations during the last half of the 19th century. Rev. Harrison was an eloquent preacher of self-determination and self-worth and was a role model for the dignity of African-Americans. As an ardent and outspoken abolitionist, he became a well-respected advocate for his community. Rev. Harrison served his country during the Civil War after being commissioned Chaplain of the Massachusetts 54th by Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew. His home, located on Third Street in Pittsfield, is a National Register of Historic Places landmark representing his place in history, his lifestyle, and his position in this community. Restoring and preserving Rev. Harrison’s homestead is imperative because of Rev. Harrison’s association with the American Abolitionist Movement.
The Samuel Harrison Society is a non-profit organization whose mission is to restore and preserve Rev. Harrison’s homestead; and use it as a place to teach the values embodied by his noble life, his enduring beliefs, his extraordinary writings; and to define a chapter in the story of us as a people by providing greater insight into African-American history.
The Samuel Harrison House is a site on along the Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail. The Rev. Samuel Harrison and his homestead are featured in the Trail Guide.
Article ID: 3716480 Publication: Berkshire Eagle, The (Pittsfield, MA) "I think the Reverend Harrison would be astounded to know that his house is now one of Pittsfield's historic landmarks." — Linda Tyer, first president of the Samuel Harrison Society