The Explorers Club presents a panel that will celebrate Black History Month by telling amazing stories of little-known exploits in Black history, adventure, exploration, escape, resilience and survival. The venues will vary from Guinea to Nigeria to Benin, from Maryland to Virginia to Alabama, from Africa across the Middle Passage to America, and from Washington, DC to the North Pole – but the theme will be the same: the contributions of Black Americans to the history and development of the United States are tremendous.
The panel of explorers will also answer a number of intriguing questions, such as:
- Was the first person to the North Pole – by 45 minutes – a little-known American Black man?
- Which early American President – other than Jefferson – had an African-American mistress, with many Black descendants of this union alive today? And was their affair incestuous as well as adulterous?
- Who was the little-known American-Canadian man who helped launch the Civil War, thus ending the entrenched, 250-year-old slave system he had escaped?
- Who paid for the US Constitution?
- Finally, you may be in good shape, but could you walk 600 miles cross-country carrying two squalling toddlers weighing over 50 pounds — plus your supplies — on your back in cloth sacks, averaging 15 miles per day for 41 days?
These questions and more will be answered in this Black History Month session — prepare to be amazed!
Lew Toulmin, PhD, FRGS, FN ’04 has carried the Explorers Club Flag on ten expeditions and led or participated in many other efforts in the areas of history, archaeology and anthropology. He has traveled to 147 of the 196 countries on Earth, and worked in 30 developing countries (including 17 in Africa) for the World Bank and USAID. He has written on explorer Matthew Henson, Reverend Josiah Henson, and Matilda McCrear, the last living survivor of the infamous slave ship Clotilda. He is currently leading an effort to document the history and descendants of the Clotilda and Africatown, Alabama, in cooperation with the Clotilda Descendants Association. He is an expert on Melanesia, the Republic of Vanuatu, and the “blackbirding” slavery system of the southwest Pacific, having worked for three years in the Vanuatu Prime Minister’s Office. Dr. Toulmin will cover the various Explorers Club Flag Expeditions that have focused on Black history, exploration and survival.
Jasmine Burr, SM ’21 is completing her undergraduate degree in archaeology and anthropology at Queens College, City University of New York. She participated in her first Explorers Club Flag Expedition, an archaeological metal detecting survey in search of traces of enslaved workers, after applying to a notice put up on the Club’s expeditions electronic bulletin board. She is currently researching the history of Africatown, Alabama, and the genealogy of two of its co-founders — survivors of the infamous 1860 last slave ship Clotilda. She is planning a career in archaeology, focused on the history of the enslaved in America. She will present on the recent Flag # 212 expedition in search of traces of President Madison’s enslaved workers.
Over the last 30 years, Dr. Bettye Kearse, a retired pediatrician, has developed close ties to President James Madison’s Montpelier plantation in Virginia and its staff, as she did research for her multiple award-winning book, The Other Madisons: The Lost History of A President’s Black Family. According to the oral history of her family, she is a descendant of the enslaved cook Coreen and her enslaver, and half-brother, President James Madison. In recounting the struggles, perseverance, and contributions of eight generations of her family, her intimate memoir illustrates that enslaved Africans possessed hope and inner strength, by which they survived, and talents, by which they contributed mightily to America. Kirkus Reviews describes The Other Madisons as “A Roots for a new generation, rich in storytelling, steeped in history.” Dr. Kearse will discuss her book and remarkable family history.
Rebecca Davis holds a BA in history and two master’s degrees, one in historical archaeology from Newcastle University in England and one in archaeology/anthropology from the University of Bristol. She is currently working on her PhD in archaeology at the University of California at Santa Cruz. She has expertise in landscape and plantation archaeology and history in the US, England, Haiti and the Virgin Islands. Ms. Davis will discuss an archaeological and historical study of L’Hermitage plantation in Maryland, one of the largest post-Revolutionary slave plantations in the state, cruelly run by white French immigrants from Haiti, during a period when the slave population of Maryland was as high as 29 percent.
J. Robert Harris ME’93, is a resident of New York City and has been exploring, unsupported and mostly alone, in remote areas around the world for more than 50 years. He is on The Explorers Club’s Board of Directors and is the Chair of the Club’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Committee. When not in the wilderness, J.R. is founder and president of JRH Marketing Services. Established in 1975, it is the oldest and most experienced African American-owned consulting and research firm in the United States. Harris was elected to the Market Research Hall of Fame in 2016. He will introduce the speakers and moderate the panel.
Amazing, Little-known Stories in Black History and Exploration
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