Begin Again: reckoning with intolerance in Maine was Installed May 27, 2021 through December 31, 2021 at Maine Historical Society's gallery in Portland. This online component expands content with Maine Memory Network items and differs slightly from the physical installation.
Curated by Anne B. Gass, Independent scholar and women's rights history activist; Tilly Laskey, curator at the Maine Historical Society; Darren J. Ranco PhD (Penobscot), Chair of Native American Programs, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Coordinator of Native American Research, University of Maine;
and Krystal Williams, Attorney and Executive Advisor, Providentia Group.
Advisors include: Ryan Adams, Matthew Jude Barker; John Banks (Penobscot); Mary L. Bonauto; Rhea Cote Robbins; Lelia DeAndrade; Angus Ferguson; David Freidenreich; Seth Goldstein; Michael-Corey F. Hinton (Passamaquoddy); Dr. Andrea Louie; Kristina Minister, PhD; Sherri Mitchell (Penobscot); Alivia Moore (Penobscot); Jennifer Neptune (Penobscot); Garrett Stewart; Charmagne Tripp; and Arisa White.
Exhibition contents and navigation
Page 1 Introduction
Page 2 Just Powers
Page 3 Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness--Path A
Page 4 All men are created equal--Path A
Page 5 We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor--Path A
Page 6 Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness--Path B
Page 7 All men are created equal--Path B
Page 8 We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor--Path B
Page 9 Maine Historical Society and museums as colonial institutions
Indigenous/Native/Native American/Indian--the first people of what is now known as the Americas.
Wabanaki—the first people of Maine encompassing the Abenaki, Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot Nations.
Black—People of African descent and African Americans.
Colonialism—a policy of stealing political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically.
Settler colonialism—a system that replaces the original population of the colonized territory with a new society of settlers through theft and force.
Triangular Trade/Atlantic Slave Trade—an economic system where merchants traded goods like rum and guns for enslaved people in Africa, who were sailed to the Americas as forced labor. The raw products of slave labor were traded for slaves and also shipped to New England for processing and sale.
White—descendants of European and English settler colonialists and those benefiting from Whiteness.
Begin Again: reckoning with intolerance in Maine
A pandemic, political unrest, race-based violence, and drastic economic inequities in 2020 have spurred conversations about intolerance in America and Maine. During this crisis, many are asking, How did we get here? The answer is centuries old.
A year after Christopher Columbus's 1492 journey, Pope Alexander VI issued a Papal Bull that legalized stealing Indigenous land in what is now known as the Americas, justifying the genocide of non-Christians. A previous proclamation in 1452 approved the murder and enslavement of African people. These "Doctrines of Christian Discovery and Domination" are the foundation of settler colonialist supremacy woven into all aspects of American life, and are a basis of the legal, economic, and social systems.
The Doctrines propelled English and European settlements through theft of Indigenous Homelands starting in the 1600s. The Doctrines shaped the ideologies of the Framers of the U.S. Constitution, who, while writing "all men are created equal," suppressed women's rights, lived on stolen land, and profited from slavery. These ideologies remain present, and were cited in the U.S. Supreme Court as recently as 2005 in City of Sherrill, New York v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York.
The roots of why, in 2020, a White Minneapolis policeman was empowered to kneel on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, in full public view for 9 minutes 29 seconds are traced to the fundamental intolerance in our society based in the Doctrines of Discovery. The question shouldn't be, How did we get here?, but rather, Where do we go from here?
This exhibition examines different paths of experiences in Maine. There are difficult histories to reckon with, and some items might shock visitors. In collaboration with a network of advisors from around the state, we invite you to view Maine's history plainly, to work toward healing through truth, and "Begin Again," envisioning a more equitable experience that we know is possible for all of Maine's residents in the future.
The Doctrines of Christian Discovery and Domination
Indigenous people in what is now known as North and South America developed their own religions and governmental organization over millennia, but Europeans regarded their complex societies as "barbarous" and therefore open to colonize, convert, and enslave. Pope Alexander VI's Papal Bull Inter Caetera proclaimed all land not inhabited by Christians was open to be "discovered" by Christian Europeans—the basis of colonization.
Two Papal Bulls—1452 pertaining to Africa and 1493 to the Americas—are known as the Doctrines of Christian Discovery and Domination. These documents allowed European settler colonialists to profit through taking ownership of land and enslaving Black and Indigenous people. Although it is 528 years old, this Doctrine is the underpinning of American racism—and Christianity is at the center of it.
The Lasting Effects of the Doctrines of Discovery
My family is from the Cape Verde Islands, a small archipelago about 400 miles off the coast of Senegal.
By Lelia DeAndrade
The Cape Verde Islands were uninhabited until the 15th century when the Portuguese arrived. Sanctioned by the Doctrines of Discovery, they claimed the islands and used them in their quest to colonize Africa. They imported enslaved Africans, who were sold, or used to support the local economy. Like many other colonizers, the Portuguese also used their position of power and violence to create a new subordinate population of racially mixed people, and a racist hierarchy that rewarded all things White and Portuguese.
Over generations, as Portuguese interest and presence in the islands declined, the Cape Verdean population became truly multi-racial and the sharp racial divisions enforced by the Portuguese faded. It also developed its own unique culture—informed by, but different from, a myriad of Portuguese and African cultural practices and values. Cape Verdean resistance to Portuguese oppression also grew. Finally, in 1975 Cape Verdeans won their independence from Portugal.
This history leaves me in a complicated relationship with the Doctrines of Discovery. I see them as the impetus of violent exploitation, oppression and White supremacy enacted by the Portuguese. However, at the same time, I know that without it, my people, my culture, my history wouldn’t exist. No doubt this is a pattern common in history—from the bad, selfish awful, comes good, life, and strength.
America has never fully embodied equality, liberty, and justice. What it has always had was a dream of justice and equality before the law.
—Heather Cox Richardson, 2018
Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society
The Second Continental Congress representing 13 colonies in America declared their independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776, and formed the United States of America. This founding document, one of 26 surviving copies printed by John Dunlap, is based on the noble principle that "All men are created equal," while in reality, it excluded women and people of color. Forty-one of the 56 signers owned slaves. William Whipple is widely known as the only Mainer to sign the Declaration of Independence—his merchant business participated in the Atlantic slave trade and he enslaved Africans on his Kittery estate—though during the American Revolution he freed some of his slaves and later supported emancipation.
The Declaration was a rallying cry to gather troops for the Revolution, and foreign support for the new government of the United States. When the Framers wrote the Constitution, the radical nature of equality celebrated in the Declaration was weakened in favor of protecting economic stability associated with property rights, therefore perpetuating inequality in society.
The line from the Declaration of Independence that always sticks out to me is the one that includes "we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." That line is probably one of the most romanticized pieces of American prose ever written, yet it's just a poetic façade that masked the true beliefs of its slave-owning authors.
The majority of the signers literally owned human beings as personal property at the moment they signed beneath those audacious words. Were "all men" truly equal in the eyes of the Founding Fathers? Of course not. After all, just 21 years earlier, the Phips Proclamation of 1755 offered bounties for the capture and killing of Wabanaki people in what is now Southern Maine.
—Michael-Corey F. Hinton (Passamaquoddy)
The Maine State Constitution took effect on March 15, 1820 when Maine separated from Massachusetts. Maine's Constitution extended to:
Every male citizen of the United States of the age of twenty-one years and upwards, excepting paupers, persons under guardianship, and Indians not taxed.
Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society
While the constitution provided strong protections for religious freedom, extended voting rights to Black men, and had no property requirement to vote, it disenfranchised women, the poor, and "Indians not taxed," recognizing Tribal sovereignty but also tying representation to taxation.
The Maine Constitution prohibits altering the Articles of Separation without the consent of Massachusetts. For this reason, and to avoid changing the Maine Constitution, Maine legislators instead suggested redacting sections of the document. Since 1876, Sections 1, 2, and 5 of Article X of the Maine Constitution ceased to be printed, but retain their legal validity. The redacted sections include Maine's obligation to uphold and defend treaties made between Massachusetts and the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Nations.
The Maine Constitution and Hope for our Future
When I look at the sweeping and inspiring declaration of rights in Maine's 1820 Constitution, I see that they do not include me, a Black woman. While the entire document is worth a coffee-cup read, I focus on Article I, §§ 1-4 which, in certain respects, parallel the United States’ Declaration of Independence.
Sections 1 and 3 recognize the "natural" and "unalienable" rights of "all men" to enjoy and defend life and worship God. Those who opine that the use of the word "men" in the Constitution refers to mankind in general ignore the literary reality of the document and the historical context in which it was drafted. Despite being established as a free state, slavery had been practiced in Maine and women—White women—had limited legal rights; Indigenous and Black women had fewer still.
I am most struck by Section 2 which recognizes that "all power is inherent in the people; all free governments are founded in their authority and instituted for their benefit." History makes plain that "the people'" who were the intended and actual beneficiaries of the free governments were wealthy White men who benefitted—and continue to benefit—from governmental norms, enacted legislation, and the court decisions that uphold an unjust system.
Yet, it is also in Section 2 that I find hope for our future. When we Mainers unite and begin to recognize and affirm each other’s humanity, Section 2 also affirms that we have the, unalienable and indefeasible right to institute government, and to alter, reform, or totally change the same, when [our] safety and happiness require it. Our power to shape the systems that govern our society is our path to a future that works for all Mainers.
The Doctrine of Discovery and the US Supreme Court
Johnson v. M'Intosh is a Supreme Court case in which two White men sought to determine who, between the two of them, had the right to claim ownership over a parcel of land that was Piankeshaw Nation Homelands. Johnson's forefathers 'purchased' the land directly from the Piankeshaw. M'intosh claimed he received the land under a grant from the United States. The Court relied heavily on the 1493 Doctrine of Discovery when determining that M'intosh was the rightful owner of the land. It was at this point in 1823 that the Doctrine of Discovery was officially incorporated into U.S. common law.
According to the Court, the Piankeshaw Nation did not have the legal right to sell land to Johnson, an individual, because, discovery gave [england, as the discoverer] an exclusive right to extinguish the Indian title of occupancy, either by purchase or by conquest; and gave also [england] a right to such a degree of sovereignty, as the circumstances of the people would allow them to exercise. The sovereign right to the land "discovered" by England passed to the newly independent United States.
This case is a clear example of the court system upholding an oppressive, unjust power structure. The Court acknowledged "title by conquest is acquired and maintained by force. The conqueror prescribes its limits." These limits are, apparently, even beyond the power of the Court to moderate as evidenced by the Court's position that "conquest gives a title which the Courts of the conqueror cannot deny, whatever the private and speculative opinions of individuals may be."
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
Christopher Columbus to the Pejepscot Proprietors
View the slideshow detailing how what is now Maine transferred from Wabanaki sovereign land to European ownership.
The place now known as Maine is—and always has been—Wabanaki Homelands. Colonization of this place was accomplished through various forms of theft and violence based on the Doctrines of Discovery and at great cost to Wabanaki people. When English people arrived in what is now known as Maine, Wabanaki leaders worked to incorporate the settlers into their social and ecological networks, to create responsible relationships, and alliances with their guests—efforts that were misinterpreted by the English as "ownership" of land.
Maine was part of Christopher Columbus's claim for Portugal and Spain. Over the next 500 years, other countries claimed parts of Maine, but it wasn't until the early 1600s that Ferdinando Gorges and John Popham, who spent years unsuccessfully colonizing Ireland, focused on Maine in the name of England.
Motivated by the prospect of economic gain from furs and timber, Gorges received a charter from King James I of England, and for more than 40 years he directed the colony's development as the self-proclaimed "Lord of the Province of Maine." Massachusetts annexed the District of Maine in 1652 after Gorges's death. Land speculation and patent companies like the Kennebec and Pejepscot Proprietors capitalized on these legacy land holdings and emphasized their connection to previous generations like Gorges to legitimize their claims. Competition and overlapping land claims were a common occurrence.
Thomas Purchase, an agent of Gorges in what is now Brunswick, Maine, ran a trading post and made real estate transactions. In the 18th century, the Pejepscot Proprietors legitimized some of their holdings by tracing the land ownership from Richard Wharton through Thomas Purchase to Gorges and attempted to reaffirm ownership through signed Indian deeds and documentation.
Massachusetts's policies and unequal relationships with Wampanoag people led to King Philip's War and the successive Colonial Wars for nearly 100 years, which greatly affected the lives of Wabanaki people and settler colonialists in Maine. During this time, land patent businesses like the Pejepscot Proprietors carved up Wabanaki territory and trading posts regularly cheated Indigenous people, adding to strained relationships.
Maps and manuscripts relating to the Ulster Scots settlements in Brunswick
Ulster Scots arrive in Brunswick
British leaders promoted Scottish migration to Northern Ireland in the 16th and 17th centuries. Known as the Ulster Scots or Scots Irish, they attempted to colonize on "plantations" and promoted the Presbyterian faith. Facing discrimination and violence in Ireland, the Ulster Scots negotiated across the Atlantic with Massachusetts Governor Shute to settle the frontier of what is now Maine, and to "hold back" the Native people, who had most recently wiped out English settlements along Maine's coast during King Philip's War. Ironically, the Ulster Scots came to Maine seeking religious and economic freedom for themselves, but felt no remorse at taking these rights away from Wabanakis.
Presbyterian Reverend James Woodside brought one of the first boats from Bann County, Ireland with 40 families to settle in the Merrymeeting Bay and Maquoit Bay areas of Brunswick in 1718. Woodside was the second pastor hired by the Pejepscot Proprietors to minister to locals and the Wabanaki, but the town quickly determined Woodside wasn't puritanical enough to continue preaching. James Woodside returned to England in 1720, but his son William stayed in Brunswick, running a trading post and working at Fort George.
The Woodside family lived four miles from Brunswick's town center on Maquoit Bay. There they built a garrison house that was a space for trading with Wabanaki people, and acted as a safe house for the community during the Colonial Wars. In 1727, William was convicted of cheating Wabanaki people at the trading post. Over time, William gained enough money—likely in part from overcharging Wabanakis and other customers— to purchase 350 acres of land from Bunganuc Creek to Wharton Point in Brunswick.
The Ulster Scots families who came to Maine with James Woodside planned to stay together as a community. In Brunswick the descendants of the first Scots Irish—including the Woodsides, Dunnings, Dunlaps, Givens, Simpsons, Wilsons, and McFaddens—have remained in the area. Census data confirms that per capita, Maine has the highest percentage of self-identified Scots descendants in the entire United States, and ranks third in the country for Ulster Scots descendants.
Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society
Attacks in Brunswick, 1756
Wabanaki people tried to control illegal settlements and pushed back against encroachments into the interior, specifically after declaring that British forts were unwelcome during peace negotiations.
As a result, the homes of Ulster Scots were attacked by two parties of Wabanaki men in the Pejepscot Patent area. Thomas Means settled on Flying Point Road in Freeport. He and his infant son were killed and Molly Phinney was taken captive by one party. The other party went to Maquoit in West Brunswick and traveled across Middle Bay to the home of John Given, but "Seeing no one but children passed them unmolested." Later they encountered Abijah Young and John and Richard Starbird, and took Young prisoner.
Why was Brunswick targeted in 1756? A likely contributing factor was the increased bounties Massachusetts put on Native people—specifically on their scalps. Reverend Thomas Smith in Falmouth Neck (Portland), about 25 miles south of Brunswick noted in 1745 "People seem wonderfully spirited to go out after the Indians."
By June 1755, Massachusetts declared war against all "Eastern Indians," except the Penobscots. When the Penobscot diplomacy failed and they refused to fight alongside settlers, Massachusetts governor Phips issued a proclamation in November expanding the war to include the Penobscot Nation. By 1756, scalp bounty payouts for men, women and children approached 300 English pounds per person, equal to about $60,000 today.
Wabanaki people were being hunted in their Homelands and retaliated.
Reverend Thomas Smith and scalp bounties
In 1755, when Maine was part of Massachusetts, an official Proclamation by Lieutenant Governor Phips of Massachusetts offered:
● 50 pounds for every male Penobscot Indian above the age of twelve years old taken alive (live captives would likely be sold into slavery in the Caribbean or to other distant buyers);
● 40 pounds for every scalp of a male Penobscot Indian above the age of twelve years old;
● 25 pounds for every female Penobscot Indian taken and brought in and for every male prisoner under the age of twelve years old;
● 20 pounds for every scalp of such female Indian or male Indian under twelve years of age.
Click here to read an expanded story by Angus Ferguson and Kristina Minister.
At Falmouth Neck (Portland), the Reverend Thomas Smith, pastor of First Parish Church, responded to the call for sanctioned violence against the Wabanaki. In 1757, Smith and prominent members of the church equipped a posse of 16 men. These "scouters and cruisers" were sent to "kill and captivate the Indian Enemy" to the east of Falmouth in the area between the Kennebec and Penobscot Rivers. Shortly after, Reverend Smith noted in his journal the receipt of 198 British pounds for "my part of the scalp money"— equal to one-quarter of his salary.
Smith and other English colonists who founded First Parish Church not only organized genocide of the Native people, they strove to grow personal fortunes by populating Maine with White settlers. The 1755 Proclamation offering bounties to hunt and kill Penobscots was but one of dozens of such programs in the Massachusetts Colony's campaign of "ethnic cleansing" targeting the Wabanaki all across the Northeast region during Reverend Smith's lifetime.
The real history of how Maine came to be 95% owned and populated by people who identify as White is encapsulated in the obscured, early history of First Parish, and the profitable investment by a few wealthy church members and their pastor in the government-sanctioned, systematic dispossession, and genocide of Wabanaki people.
—Angus Ferguson, Esq.
Member, First Parish Church, Portland
—Kristina Minister, Ph.D.
Member, First Parish Church, Portland
All Men are Created Equal
Items relating to William Pepperrell and slavery
William Pepperrell, merchant and slave owner
William Pepperrell (1696-1759) of Kittery was an English merchant, officer, and Governor of Massachusetts—which Maine was part of until 1820. Along with other settler colonialists, his wealth was derived from the labor of Black and poor people, and based upon the theft of Native lands. Pepperrell owned, bought, and sold African enslaved people throughout his life.
Slavery of African people existed in Maine within English-speaking settlements, and while often considered an institution of the American South, the profits from enslaving people—both Indigenous and Black—helped build many of Maine's businesses, industries, and coastal communities. Even families less prominent than the Pepperrells forced slaves to do their hard labor. New England slave owners were more likely to own one or two slaves, rather than hundreds.
When a shipment of rum and enslaved people consigned to William Pepperrell arrived in Kittery on the ship Sarah from Barbados in 1719, Pepperrell wrote the ship's captain, Benjamin Bullard,
I received yours by Captain Morris, with bills of lading for five negroes, and one hogshead of rum. One negro woman, marked Y on the left breast, died in about three weeks after her arrival, in spite of medical aid which I procured. All the rest died at sea. I am sorry for your loss. It may have resulted in deficient clothing so early in the spring.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts outlawed the slave trade in 1787 in both Massachusetts and the District of Maine, but an illegal trade continued.
Maine and the Atlantic World Slave Economy
Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society
Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society
The average lifespan of an enslaved African, once they arrived in Cuba, was seven years. These individuals were literally worked to death. In the 1800s, Cuba produced much of the world’s sugar. This matters to Maine history because Cuba was Portland’s primary trade partner in the early to mid-19th century. The profits from such trade were so lucrative that Cuba’s forests were cut down and the fields grew sugar cane almost exclusively.
Maine provided the lumber that built the plantations, as well as food that fed the enslaved Africans. One 20th century maritime historian described how whole houses, broken down, were shipped to Cuba along with parsnips, beets, potatoes, salt cod, board lumber, and oxen to work the sugar presses. Maine also shipped broken-down wooden boxes and casks to be assembled once they reached Cuba. Coopers from Portland traveled to Cuba to assemble these containers and filled them with sugar, molasses, and rum.
Sugar bowls are a reminder of the legacy of colonization and slavery attached to Maine businesses and industries.
Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society
Sugar cane products like molasses, in turn, were shipped to Maine where the tallest building on the Portland waterfront was the J.B. Brown sugar refinery, the Portland Sugar Company. The refined sugar graced dining tables throughout the region and this luxury product was exhibited in ornate sugar bowls.
In 1860 Portland was processing 20 percent of all the molasses that was imported into the U.S., more than any other city in the country. Some of the molasses supplied one of the seven rum distilleries that dotted the Portland waterfront. Some of this rum was then shipped to West Africa, where it was used to purchase and enslave Africans.
Many of the ships involved in transporting enslaved Africans across the Atlantic were built in Maine, and captained and crewed by Mainers. This is true both before and after the slave trade was declared a "piratical" act in 1808, punishable by death. It is notable that the only individual ever disciplined to the letter of the law was Captain Nathaniel Gordon who hailed from Portland. He was hung in 1862 after being convicted for carrying 897 enslaved people aboard the merchant ship Erie. Half of the enslaved people on the ship were children.
"I should like to spend some time in the country, were it not for the shrieks of the slaves, which you hear constantly, some one or another, being nearly all the time at the whipping post."
Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society
John Bundy Brown and Maine's sugar industry
John Bundy Brown (1804-1881) was one of Maine's wealthiest businessmen, his fortunes based in the sugar industry and real estate. Brown began his career in the wholesale grocery business and branched into sugar and molasses with the Portland Sugar Company, a successful venture from 1845 to 1866.
Sugar—called "white gold" because of its huge profit margins— is linked to colonization and slavery. Christopher Columbus brought sugar canes to the Americas in 1493. Deploying the Doctrines of Christian Discovery and Domination of 1452 and 1493 to support their actions, Europeans stole Indigenous lands in the Caribbean to grow the sugar cane, and forced enslaved Africans and Indigenous people to tend and harvest sugar crops, which were flourishing by 1515. Sugar was a leading commodity in the Atlantic slave trade.
By 1860, the Portland Sugar Company helped position Portland as the top American city in the sugar refining market. In 1865, the factory was using 30,000 "hogsheads" (barrels) of molasses a year, processed into 250 barrels of sugar a day. Portland's Great Fire of 1866 destroyed Bundy's refining warehouse, but the resources from this successful business helped support his future ventures, and even rebuild the city after the fire's devastation. Other businesses like Forest City Sugar Refining and the Eagle Sugar Refinery continued operations in Portland until 1891, but once slavery was abolished in Cuba in 1886, the businesses ceased to be profitable.
As of 2021, sugarcane continues to be a crop associated with inequity and is consistently in the top five products—along with gold, bricks, tobacco, and coffee—that are produced using child and forced labor.
Timber and Shipping, Triangular Trade, and Maine Businesses
Maine timber and shipping industries benefited from slavery through what is known as the "triangular trade" or the Atlantic slave trade. Maine-built ships, captained and crewed by Maine men, carried iron, cloth, brandy, firearms, and gunpowder to Africa. On the return journey, the ships brought captives for sale to American slaveholders.
Congress outlawed the slave trade in 1808, although it continued illicitly for years afterward. Yet with no prohibition against transporting slaves within the United States, or of products made by them, many business opportunities remained. With our extensive forest, navigable rivers, and coastal port cities, by the mid-19th century, Maine was the largest producer of ships in America. Maine ships brought lime, ice, lumber and food to the Caribbean, where slaves produced sugar cane in brutal conditions. The ships brought back sugar for processing and partially refined molasses for sale to Maine distilleries, where it was turned into rum.
Similarly, Maine had a brisk trade with the American South, bringing cargo such as canned fish or corn, ice, lime, granite, and textiles for sale there, and returning with raw cotton produced by southern slaves for use in the textile industry here, and guano for use in fertilizer. Maine even imported lumber from the South to meet the insatiable demand generated by the shipping and building industries, along with recruiting recently arrived European and Franco immigrants to work in the lumber camps.