Black Bangor: African Americans in a Maine Community, 1880-1950

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UPNE, 2005 - Biography & Autobiography - 177 pages
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Blacks have lived and worked in Maine as early as the seventeenth century, but historically have constituted less than one percent of Maine’s population. Probably for this reason, books on Blacks in New England have largely ignored the experience of African American Mainers. Black Bangor is the first major published study of a Black community in Maine.

This tightly woven case study examines the African American community in Bangor during its heyday, 1880–1950, the period that saw an unprecedented migration of Blacks to that city. Blacks migrated to Bangor not just from other New England states, but from the Caribbean and Canadian Maritime Provinces as well, creating a heterogeneous community with roots in two hemispheres. Constituting an “ultraminority” in Bangor (according to the census, Blacks never numbered more than 300 souls during this period), this diverse community nonetheless came together to establish an impressive range of institutions, including local chapters of the NAACP and Odd Fellows, as well as of Mothers and Junior Mothers Clubs. Concentrated in an area known as the Parker Street neighborhood, Black women in Bangor became domestics and cooks, caterers and beauticians, clerks and stenographers. Men worked as loggers, teamsters, porters, chefs, and barbers; a few owned businesses.

Organized thematically, with sections on migration, labor, daily life, and community, Black Bangor’s topics include not just migration patterns, work, and religious and cultural organizations, but also African American homes, furniture, clothing, and foodways. Elgersman Lee also examines race relations and depictions of Blacks in the local media, and draws comparisons between the experiences of Bangor’s African American population and those of Blacks in other New England cities.

This fascinating and exhaustive study will appeal to anyone from Maine, as well as those interested in African American history and the rich texture of the region’s cultural life.

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Daisy Goode mentioned on page 45 & 46 of the article was my great-grandmother (mother's grandmother) and her mother Margaret Halfkenny also mentioned was my great-great grandmother... they were actually Mi'k'Maq Indian from New Brunswick, Canada. They moved to Bangor along with Daisy's many siblings and lived on the other end of Parker St. from where I grew up. During this time in history many natives were listed as mulatto or black.
Brenda Myree

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Thought the book was quite fascinated. Also learned a lot. Found my mom family name and heritage. Thank you


Laboring Men and Women
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Selected Bibliography 163
Index 17

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About the author (2005)

MAUREEN ELGERSMAN LEE is Associate Professor of History and Faculty Scholar, African American Collection of Maine, at the University of Southern Maine. She has served as curator for several exhibits on African American history in Maine at the University of Southern Maine, Lewiston-Auburn College, and Bangor Public Library.

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