City Briefing: New historical marker for Sojourner Truth Memorial Park in Northampton

  • Sojourner Truth

  • The Sojourner Truth memorial statue at the corner of Pine and Park streets in Florence. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Northampton Senior Center GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 1/27/2022 5:03:10 PM
Modified: 1/27/2022 5:01:53 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A new historical marker will grace Sojourner Truth Memorial Park now that the city has accepted a donation from the Pomeroy Foundation, which is installing roadside markers throughout the country to commemorate suffragists and their work.

The City Council approved a plan last week to install the marker in the park on Pine Street. The Sojourner Truth Memorial Committee of Florence worked with the organization Suffrage100MA to secure the donation, valued at $5,000.

Sojourner Truth, an iconic advocate for women’s right to vote and a former slave, moved to Florence in 1843 to join the Northampton Association of Education and Industry, a community of like-minded activists who operated a silk factory together. According to the David Ruggles Center for History & Education, Truth started giving public speeches against slavery the following year and bought a house on Park Street in Florence in 1850.

The marker, one of 250 donated nationwide by the Pomeroy Foundation, is part of the National Votes for Women Trail, a network of more than 2,100 locations that bear historical significance in the fight for women’s suffrage.

Public works crews will install the marker. DPW Director Donna LaScaleia said Massachusetts will receive five historical markers in total, and they will be part of a network that can be followed via smartphone.

The 19th Amendment, ratified on Aug. 18, 1920, granted women the right to vote by law. In practice, voting rights did not fully extend to Black women in the U.S. until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Free COVID-19 testing

The city is now offering free PCR molecular testing for COVID-19 twice per week at the Senior Center at 67 Conz St.

Testing will be offered on Mondays and Wednesdays from 12:30 to 4 p.m. Anyone who lives or works in the city can register for an appointment, and everyone who enters the Senior Center must wear a mask.

To book an appointment, visit NorthamptonMA.gov/2392/Local-Testing-Sites. If in need of further assistance, call the Health Department at (413) 587-1215.

The Senior Center remains closed for all nonessential purposes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Essential services that are still offered include food distribution on the second Thursday of each month, transportation, curbside lunch pickup on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and curbside AARP tax preparation appointments.

The cities of Northampton and Easthampton still operate a regional testing site at Millside Park in Easthampton.

Between Jan. 6 and Jan. 19, the latest two-week period for which data is available, Northampton recorded 802 cases of COVID-19 with a test positivity rate of 8.2% and one new death.

Sciarra’s ‘very first act’ as mayor

Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra told the City Council last week that “I believe my very first act” in office was to reappoint Alan Seewald to the position of city solicitor, calling him “a foremost expert on Massachusetts municipal law.”

Seewald’s term expired at the end of Mayor David Narkewicz’s administration on Jan. 3 and Sciarra kept him in the role on an interim basis. Narkewicz first appointed Seewald in 2012; the City Council referred the reappointment to the City Services subcommittee.

“It really is meaningful to me to represent this community that I’ve lived in for 41 years,” Seewald said. “I was honored when Mayor Narkewicz asked me to serve, and I was honored that Mayor Sciarra has asked me again to serve.”

In a letter to the City Council announcing the reappointment, Sciarra wrote that Seewald “brings in an unparalleled wealth of experience, expertise and wise counsel that has helped guide the city to the the stability Northampton currently enjoys.”

Seewald, a graduate of UMass Amherst and Western New England College School of Law, served as Amherst’s town counsel from 1988 to 2006. He also served as counsel for the town of Westminster and as general counsel to the Amherst-Pelham and Hampshire Regional school districts.

Brian Steele can be reached at bsteele@gazettenet.com.
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