Sunday, November 30, 2014

Logbooks, Slavery, Racism, Middletown & Loss of Memory

Anne Farrow, author of "The Logbooks: Connecticut's Slave Ships and Human Memory" (Wesleyan University Press), will speak this Thursday evening (12/040 at 7 p.m. in the small sanctuary of Congregation Adath Israel, 8 Broad Street in Middletown. The author conducted research at the Middlesex County Historical Society and the Society is sponsoring this event.

This from the press release: "In 1757, a sailing ship owned by Gurdon Salstonstall, an affluent Connecticut merchant, and captained by John Easton of Middletown, sailed from New London to the tiny island of Bence in Sierra Leone, West Africa, to take on fresh water and slaves. On board was the owner’s son, Dudley Salstonstall, on a training voyage to learn the trade. "The Logbooks" explores that voyage and two others documented by young Salstonstall. When writer Anne Farrow discovered the significance of the logbooks for the Africa and two other ships in 2004, her mother had been recently diagnosed with dementia. As Farrow bore witness to the impact of memory loss on her mother’s sense of self, she also began a journey into the world of the logbooks and the Atlantic slave trade, eventually retracing part of the Africa’s long-ago voyage to Sierra Leone. As the narrative unfolds in The Logbooks, Farrow explores the idea that if our history is incomplete, then collectively we have forgotten who we are—a loss that is in some ways similar to what her mother experienced. Her meditations are well rounded with references to the work of writers, historians, and psychologists."

Having read the book on my recent trip to Chicago, which happened to coincide with the grand jury decision in Ferguson, MO, Ms. Farrow touches on a number of issues that the United States is still coming to terms with, particularly how this country has treated and continues to treat African Americans in the years since slavery was banned.  Also, the book was researched and written during the time that the author's mother was slipping into dementia, totally losing her memory save for jumbled recollections from her childhood. In the book, the loss of personal memory is compared to the loss of "national memory", the ability or, perhaps, the desire to forget or ignore traumatic events or worse, trivialize them.  

The talk is free and open to the public - a good will donation is always welcome.  Parking is on the street and in the north side of the parking lot behind Adath Israel that is directly behind the former First United Methodist Church.  

For more information, call the Historical Society at 860-346-0746. To learn more about Ms. Farrow's book, go to

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