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Pompey was elected a Colonial-era “king.” Did researchers find the foundation of his home outside Boston?

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image of Kabria Baumgartner, Dean’s Associate Professor of History and Africana Studies works on the site of what archeologists believe is the home of King Pompey, on June 4, 2024. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

At first glance, it may not look like much more than a hole. But the 4-foot deep excavation of a rock foundation behind a chain-link-fenced backyard transports Northeastern University historian Kabria Baumgartner back 275 years—to a unique colonial New England tradition in which a formerly enslaved Black man named Pompey was elected “king.” On the shores of the Saugus River about 10 miles north of Boston, she is surrounded by small, smooth stones—unearthed by a team of archeologists — believed to be the remains of Pompey’s former home. “It really comes to life,” says Baumgartner, a dean’s associate professor of history and Africana studies at Northeastern. “I spend a lot of time in archives looking at written materials. It feels different to come to a site.”

Between about 1750 and 1850, New England had at least 31 elected Black kings and governors, most of whom were enslaved, according to the New England Historical Society. Black kings were elected in colonies such as Massachusetts and New Hampshire where the white governor was appointed; Black governors were elected in colonies where the white governor was elected. 

Read more at Northeastern Global News.

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