Date: Tuesday, July 11, 2023
Time: 5:30 pm
Preregistration is required for those attending via Zoom at castinehistoricalsociety.org. No registration is necessary if you will be attending in-person.
A talk on Portland’s African American meeting house and its ties with Castine by Pamela Cummings, Board Chair, Abyssinian Meeting House. Via Zoom and in-person at Emerson Hall, 67 Court St., Castine.
The Abyssinian Meeting House, a National Historic Registry site located at 75 Newbury Street in Portland, was built in 1828, and was the historical, religious, educational, and cultural center of Portland’s 19th-century African American community. It has a unique tie to Castine as one of its founders, Abraham Niles, was born, raised and educated in Castine before moving to Portland to continue his career as a sailor. Cummings will talk about the history of the Meeting House and its ties to the Underground Railroad. Because of its easy access by rail and sea, Portland developed as one of the northernmost hubs of the Underground Railroad, the last stop before legal freedom outside the country. When the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was passed, it allowed slave owners and their agents to track down freedom seekers in the North and return them to slavery. Portland’s black and white activists reacted, providing safe houses and helping to organize escape routes to England and Canada. Despite the trepidation of some members, The Abyssinian Meeting House was closely associated with the Underground Railroad and with local abolitionist activity. Leaders and members of the Abyssinian Church actively participated in concealing, supplying, and transporting refugees from slavery, as recounted in slave narratives and oral traditions. The Portland Union Antislavery Society, founded in 1842, was one of several grassroots movements advocating for the abolition of slavery in the South. The founding meeting was held at The Abyssinian Meeting House. One unpublished memoir also refers to a fugitive slave being concealed in the meeting house itself.