On a recent trip to Lexington and Concord, I photographed the Prince Estabrook memorial located in a prime spot near Buckman Tavern overlooking the Lexington Battle Green. The memorial was dedicated in April 2008 and pays tribute to a slave and soldier named Prince Estabrook who fought with Captain Parker’s militia in the Battle of Lexington on April 19, 1775. Estabrook was wounded in the battle. While visiting the memorial, I wondered how many teachers across the country were aware that an African American had fought for freedom in this historic battle even though he was still enslaved. If they knew that a slave had participated and displayed such bravery in the first battle of the American Revolution, I’m sure it would be something teachers would want to include in their curriculum.
Reporter Alice M. Hinkle was of a similar mindset in 1987 after she had the opportunity to interview Charles H. Price Jr., past commander of the Lexington Minute Men for a newspaper article. For more than 20 years, Price had played the role of Prince Estabrook during the annual Patriot’s Day battle reenactment. This interview with Charles H. Price Jr. served as an introduction to Prince Estabrook and made Alice M. Hinkle want to learn much more about a man who in her words had “slipped between the cracks of history”. In late 1994, she began a research journey that spanned nearly seven years and involved visiting sites, searching through archives and following numerous leads. In 2001, her hard effort was rewarded when Alice M. Hinkle’s outstanding book Prince Estabrook, Slave and Soldier was published. Copies can be purchased today from the Visitor Centers in both Lexington and Concord as well as other sites along Boston’s Freedom Trail.
Below is a video from the dedication ceremonies of the Prince Estabrook memorial in April 2008 with wonderful speeches by William Hinkle, husband of the late author Alice M. Hinkle, and Charles H. Price Jr.
I’d like to make teachers aware of an outstanding online resource for information on New England just before, during, and after the Revolutionary War – the Boston 1775 blog. The blog is authored by J.L. Bell, a Massachusetts writer who specializes in the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. J.L. has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. His recent presentation “Gossiping about the Gores”, the story of one family from Colonial Boston, is archived by the WGBH Forum Network.
J.L. Bell is more than a writer who is passionate about history; he’s also a bit of a detective. Since 2006, the content on Boston 1775 has grown to over 1,300 posts, with many being the result of his exhaustive research into primary sources. Educators and all those passionate about history can truly spend hours on this blog learning information that will make them think about historical events in a different way. You’ll find numerous posts on Lexington and Concord, the Boston Massacre, Boston Tea Party, Bunker Hill and so much more.
Two posts I found particularly fascinating were on the myths and realities of the Quartering Act. Back in grade school I was taught that the Quartering Act forced Boston families to provide food and shelter for the King’s troops occupying the town. I had pictured colonists being required to open up their homes to soldiers without any payment in return or say in the matter. By reading posts at Boston 1775, I realized this was not the case. The Act only referred to shelter in “unoccupied” buildings and not inhabited ones.
Some Boston families did house British soldiers in their homes before the war but most did so due to economic necessity and were compensated for it in the form of rent. One example of this is the family of Old North Church sexton Robert Newman. Knowledge of the true nature of the Quartering Act came too late for me to catch a small Act related error on page 31 of my children’s book One April in Boston – but I guess that’s what second editions are for! It’s an example of what one can gain from reading Boston 1775, and ensures that today I’m conveying the correct information to the students I work with both on field trips and in the classroom. Thanks J.L. for all the time and effort you’ve invested in creating this important resource for educators and history buffs alike.
The Old North Church or Christ Church in the City of Boston (its official name) was built in 1723 and is the oldest standing church building in Boston today. It is the famous spot where sexton Robert Newman held two lanterns in the steeple window as a signal that the British troops had left Boston by the water (and not the land) route and were making their way to Lexington and Concord. Paul Revere came up with the idea for the lantern signal and it will be forever associated with his Midnight Ride.
Today visitors to Old North can sit in the high box pews that bear the names of their original owners and learn about the history of this wonderful site from an excellent staff of guides. Their 7-10 minute talks occur constantly throughout the day and are just one way to discover the history of Old North Church. A Behind the Scenes tour offers a unique perspective and provides new and in-depth information about the Church’s history. Visitors are taken into the Church’s second-floor gallery, up into the bell ringing chamber where a 15-year-old Paul Revere and his friends worked as bell ringers in 1750, and down into the crypt beneath the church where 37 tombs and about 1,100 bodies lie.
Behind the Scenes tours for school groups are available with advance reservations. This special tour is offered to families and small groups hourly on weekends in June, daily from July 1st through October 12th and the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for students/seniors/military and $5 for children 16 and under. Tickets may be purchased at the Old North Gift Shop. Large groups of 8 or more are encouraged to schedule tours in advance. To schedule your Behind the Scenes tour for a group of 8 or more contact Old North Church at (617) 523-6676 or by email at email@example.com.