HUB History - Our Favorite Stories from Boston History

Where two history buffs go far beyond the Freedom Trail to share our favorite stories from the history of Boston, the hub of the universe.


Over the River and Through the Wood (episode 160)

We know the song “Over the River and Through the Wood” as a Christmas carol, but it was originally titled “The New England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving Day.” Despite the song’s quaint themes of traditional New England holiday cheer, the woman who wrote it was anything but traditional. Medford native Lydia Maria Child had been a pioneering children’s author, but her increasingly radical positions on abolitionism, women’s rights, and freethinking jeopardized her earning power and helped galvanize a movement. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Please check out the transcript and full show notes at:

And support the show on Patreon. Over the River and Through the Wood

  • Read the original lyrics to “Over the River and Through the Wood” in Flowers for Children
  • Barrett’s royalty free (but highly abridged) version
  • An Appeal in Favor of that Class of Americans Called Africans by Lydia Maria Child
  • Our show about David Walker’s An Appeal to the Colored People of the World, which influenced Maria’s Appeal
  • Thomas Wentworth Higginson’s profile of Lydia Maria Child
  • The treacly morality piece “The Little White Lamb and the Little Black Lamb” in Flowers for Children
  • Our show about Horace Mann, who influenced Maria’s children’s writing
  • Maria’s father and his famous Medford Crackers
  • More on early crackers in New England
  • Read Maria’s turkey and cracker stuffing recipe in The American Frugal Housewife
Boston Book Club

We used Jared Ross Hardesty’s Unfreedom: Slavery and Dependence in Eighteenth Century Boston as a source for our discussion of the origins of slavery in early colonial Boston back in episode 74. Alongside Wendy Warren’s New England Bound and Margaret Ellen Newell’s Brethren by Nature, it’s part of a wave of recent scholarship that reexamines the practice of enslaving African Americans in New England. Hardesty’s book in particular looks at chattel slavery in the context of the rigid class hierarchy of Puritan Boston, and he looks at it as the bottom rung of a ladder of unfreedom that also included penal servitude for criminals, hiring out pauper children, and even apprentices and indentured servants. Here’s how the publisher describes the book:

Instead of relying on the traditional dichotomy of slavery and freedom, Hardesty argues we should understand slavery in Boston as part of a continuum of unfreedom. In this context, African slavery existed alongside many other forms of oppression, including Native American slavery, indentured servitude, apprenticeship, and pauper apprenticeship. In this hierarchical and inherently unfree world, enslaved Bostonians were more concerned with their everyday treatment and honor than with emancipation, as they pushed for autonomy, protected their families and communities, and demanded a place in society.

Drawing on exhaustive research in colonial legal records – including wills, court documents, and minutes of governmental bodies – as well as newspapers, church records, and other contemporaneous sources, Hardesty masterfully reconstructs an eighteenth-century Atlantic world of unfreedom that stretched from Europe to Africa to America. By reassessing the lives of enslaved Bostonians as part of a social order structured by ties of dependence, Hardesty not only demonstrates how African slaves were able to decode their new homeland and shape the terms of their enslavement, but also tells the story of how marginalized peoples engrained themselves in the very fabric of colonial American society.

Upcoming Event

You may remember William Monroe Trotter as a central figure in our episode about Black Boston’s opposition to the racist movie Birth of a Nation, when he organized protests, petitioned the state legislature, and eventually met with President Wilson. He was an author, a newspaper publisher, and a founder of the NAACP, but he has been largely forgotten by history, overshadowed by later activists. Dr. Kerri Greenidge’s new biography of Trotter, Black Radical: the Life and Times of William Monroe Trotter, puts him back into the center of the struggle for Black rights in the early 20th century as a radical counterweight to moderate figures like Booker T Washington.

Dr. Greenidge is a history professor at Tufts, as well as the codirector of the African American Trail Project. She’ll be discussing her the book at the Connolly branch of the Boston Public Library in Jamaica Plain at 6:30pm on Monday, December 2nd. The event is free, and advanced registration is not required.


 2019-11-24  28m