Historic Northampton exhibit runs through Dec. 9

  • Marie Panik, the museum manager at Historic Northampton and co curator sits with Bruce Laurie, a professor of history at UMass , in an exhibit which shows the connection between Henry Gere and images of Self liberated salves including the famous image of Peter.

Staff Writer
Published: 10/27/2018 2:07:36 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The exhibit, Chaotic Freedom and the Scars of Slavery: From Baton Rouge to Northampton, runs at Historic Northampton until Dec. 9. 

Based on historian Bruce Laurie’s research for his 2016 essay, “‘Chaotic Freedom’ in Civil War Louisiana: The Origins of an Iconic Image,” published by The Massachusetts Review, the exhibit is about the story of two local men who came face-to-face with slavery while serving in the Union Army in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1863. 

Laurie, professor emeritus of history at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, delved into the collections of letters and photographs left behind by Northampton newspaper publisher Henry S. Gere and Northfield currier and carpenter Marshall S. Stearns for a compelling essay, and now exhibition, about the origins of the famous photograph from the Civil War era of a former slave named Peter. 

Vice president of Historic Northampton’s board of trustees, Stan Shearer, reproduced small collection of photographs of Peter and the contraband camp where Gere and Stearns were stationed for the exhibit. 

“It took hours and hours of smoothing cracks, it was essentially a restoration project,” Shearer said of the images. “I really wanted to make them as immediate as possible. They are jaw dropping in power.”


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