“The Eastons: Five Generations of Human Rights Activism, 1748-1935”
This is a non-fiction, biographical book about some of my direct ancestors and their relatives who stood up for justice and equality and against racism and oppression, between the years of 1748 and 1935. The topics include: Indigenous land rights struggles; the original spirit and egalitarian goals of the American Revolution (before that movement was co-opted and sabotaged by the plantation aristocrats and capitalists); the anti-slavery movement; race theory and racial identities; and the ever-present American anti-racism and equality movements. Most of the action in these stories took place in southeastern Massachusetts, our Wampanoag homelands, but also in other New England locations, and in Texas, New Orleans, and California. Many of these complex-identity people of color were abolitionists, before the Civil War. This is some very important, foundational, working class, intersecting American history, with many stories that never get told in our schools but should, and hopefully now will.
Did you know that the earliest known sit-in protests in American history were against racially segregated seating in a couple of different Massachusetts churches? Those protests were led by James and Sarah Easton. Did you know that nearly half of the Revolutionary War soldiers in Massachusetts were people of color–indigenous American, indigenous African-descended and mixed? Did you know that during the early, post-Reconstruction, Jim Crow era, the Republican Party in Texas was the progressive, equality-advocating party of the people, in which many of the leaders of that party were people of color, and the Democrats there were largely white supremacists who terrorized and persecuted those Texas Republicans? Those are just a few of the many stories and facts that you will find in this book. Here is a brief description of the six chapters of the book and some of its other contents:
Chapter One, The Origins of the Easton Family and Their Activist Tradition
This chapter includes the early history of African/Native American relations in southeastern Massachusetts, origins of the Easton family, some history of Native American resistance to colonialist land-stealing, focused on the Wampanoag and Massachuset people of the Titticut Indian Reservation, and the Easton family’s role in that struggle.
Chapter Two, James Easton: Living the Ideals of the American Revolution
This chapter covers the early and middle life of James Easton, including his service in the American Revolution, the several protests that he and his wife, Sarah, led against segregated seating in two churches, between 1789 and 1826, and his ascending regional reputation as a skilled blacksmith and producer of iron implements.
Chapter Three, James Easton & Sons: the business, the school, and their opposition
This chapter details the Easton family’s struggle against racist opposition to their increasing success in the iron implements business, and to their founding of one of the earliest vo-tech type of trade schools in America, founded specifically for young men of color, to address the lack of opportunity for apprenticeships in the skilled trades.
Chapter Four, Hosea Easton: Forgotten Abolitionist “Giant”
This biographical chapter covers the life and contributions of the best-known Easton family member, the Rev. Hosea Easton—abolitionist, uplift activist, founding member, along with David Walker and others, of the Massachusetts General Colored Association, co-founder of the National Convention of Free People of Color, frequent contributor to The Liberator, author of other publications, and frequent public speaker.
Chapter Five, Benjamin F. Roberts and the Battle for School Integration and Equality in Nineteenth Century Boston
This chapter covers the life of Benjamin F. Roberts, a grandson of James and Sarah Easton, best known as the initiator of the Roberts v. City of Boston (1849) Massachusetts Supreme Court school integration case, but also a significant activist on several other fronts. Benjamin Roberts was a long time self-employed printer who employed and apprenticed many young men of color over the course of his career, contributed essays to The Liberator, published two of his own newspapers (the Anti-Slavery Herald and the Self-Elevator) and helped organize and publicize many activist meetings, mostly on school integration.
Chapter Six, William Edgar Easton: Still Fighting the Unfinished Revolution
This chapter provides the first chapter-length scholarly biography of a man who was a very well-known and highly-respected civil rights activist in his day and for decades afterward. William Easton was the great-grandson of James Easton’s brother, Moses Easton, who left Massachusetts in his early twenties to commit his life to “racial uplift”work—first as a teacher, then a newspaper editor, playwright and Republican Party leader in post-Reconstruction Texas, and later, after fleeing Texas for his life, as a writer and political activist in California.
The Appendix of the book includes a transcription of the Petition of Wampanoag sachem and preacher, John Simon of Titticut, for protection from the Massachusetts government against land stealers; a detailed list of Wampanoag and Massachuset families and individuals residing at Titticut and Assawompset who sold land, from 1732 to 1786, with Plymouth County land deed file numbers; an impressive list of Easton family property confiscated by the Bridgewater sheriff in 1819, for which the family successfully appealed for restitution in the Plymouth County court; a reproduction of a published account, written by abolitionist Lydia Maria Child, describing some of the details of the Easton family church seating protests; and a few other interesting items.
I also include a section in the book, “Some Notes on Research Methods, Sources, and Interpretation,” in which I provide some useful advice on doing biographical research on historically marginalized and omitted people of color in America.
The price of this paperback book is $24.00 plus a shipping charge of $4.00 per book. Purchasers can pay by credit card, using Venmo, @Barbara-Price-38, or by mailing a check to me at:
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Your questions and thoughts can be left in the comments below, and I can also be reached by email at, firstname.lastname@example.org