Video: The Movement Towards Historical Recovery: Researching & Reckoning with New England’s Role in Colonization & Slavery

February 15, 2024 — As part of Rokeby Museum’s annual Black History Month lecture series, Meadow Dibble from Atlantic Black Box presented her work on historical recovery in New England.

Whether or not we’re aware of it, what has occurred in the places we call home—who lived, learned, loved, and labored there before us—deeply informs our sense of identity and belonging. So what happens when our dominant historical narratives are heavily redacted? What is the impact of inaccurate, skewed, and highly selective stories about the people who contributed to building our communities? The reality of New England’s long-standing involvement in slavery has been suppressed over the centuries, just as the stories of the region’s free and enslaved Black and Indigenous populations have been marginalized when not entirely erased from our sites of public memory and our school curricula. How could we have gotten the story so wrong for so long, and what will it take to get it right? 

Atlantic Black Box empowers communities to resurface suppressed histories and supports the development of public memory literacy in the interest of truth and justice. In this presentation, Executive Director Meadow Dibble contrasts the cherished myth of Northern exceptionalism with scholarship that reveals a long history of colonization and racial oppression in the region. Sharing her organization’s collective historical recovery model, Meadow invites participants to observe how Indigenous, Black, and settler-descendent populations are represented–or not–in the commemorative landscape all around them, sharing approaches to the excavation of local realities and exploring some of the ways they continue to shape our present-day relationships and possible futures.

Presenter: Meadow Dibble, Ph.D., is a researcher and antiracist historical recovery advocate. Originally from Cape Cod, she lived on Senegal’s Cape Verde peninsula for six years, where she published a cultural magazine from 1996–2000 and coordinated foreign study programs. Meadow received her PhD from Brown University’s Department of French Studies and taught at Colby College from 2005–08. In 2018, following a brutal awakening to her hometown’s deep investment in the business of slavery, she founded Atlantic Black Box, a nonprofit based in Portland, Maine, that empowers communities throughout New England to take up the critical work of researching and reckoning with the region’s active role in colonization and the global economy of enslavement. In 2023, Meadow served as co-leader of the Place Justice initiative, which was carried out in partnership with the Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous, and Tribal Populations.