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Arts & Culture

Maine African American Heritage

Although Maine's black history is fragmented and not well-documented, recent efforts are striving to correct that. Top resources include the University of Southern Maine's African American Collection of Maine and Maine's Visible Black History: The First Chronicle of Its People, by H. H. Price and Gerald E. Talbot. You can also visit the sites where important events in Maine's black history have occurred.

Portland Freedom Trail

One of the key African-American sights in Maine is the Portland Freedom Trail, which comprises 16 marked sites and highlights individuals associated with the Underground Railway and anti-slavery movement. You can visit the 1827 Abyssinian Meeting House, the third-oldest African-American church still standing in the country, and Mariners' Church, where the first Afro-centric history of the world, Light and Truth, written by Robert Benjamin Lewis, was printed.

Harriet Beecher Stowe

In Brunswick, you can visit First Paris Church, where Harriet Beecher Stowe was inspired by a sermon to begin writing Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1850.

Malaga Island

In Phippsburg, you can visit Malaga Island, where a sad chapter in Maine's African-American history occurred. In 1912, the state evicted a mixed-race community of 45 residents.

Lewiston-Auburn's African Community

On a more contemporary note, Lewiston, site of the still controversial 1965 World Heavyweight Championship bout between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston, is now, along with neighboring Auburn, home to a growing population of refugees from war-torn Somalia and other African countries. Like the free blacks who arrived after slavery was abolished here in 1781, these refugees came seeking freedom and a better life, and in the process are broadening Maine's cultural heritage. You can experience some of this heritage by visiting the African restaurants, grocery stores and clothing shops these new residents have opened.