Slavery in the Valley: Five Unsung Heroes Who Resisted

The Jones Library Presents:

Slavery in the Valley: Five Unsung Heroes Who Resisted


Amherst, MA, September 22, 2016 – The Jones Library announces Slavery in the Valley:  Five Unsung Heroes Who Resisted, a lecture by Robert Romer on Saturday, October 15, 2016 at 2:30 pm.

Slavery was widespread in the Connecticut Valley in colonial times, where most of the “important people” – including most of the ministers – owned two or three black slaves.  By no means did all of the enslaved people in the valley, some born in Africa, some born into slavery in America, passively accept their status as the property of white owners.  Romer will tell what is known of the stories of five who, in various ways, actively resisted and explain why it is important to remember those who lived here in slavery, the “invisible men and women” of our colonial past.

Robert H. Romer, physicist and historian, is Professor of Physics, Emeritus, at Amherst College, where he taught from 1955 to 2001, serving as editor of the American Journal of Physics from 1988 to 2001.  He is the author of Slavery in the Connecticut Valley of Massachusetts (Levellers Press, 2009) and The History of Hope Church in Amherst (2013), a manuscript held at the Special Collections Departments of Jones Library and Amherst College’s Frost Library. He was the 2012 recipient of the Amherst Historical Society’s Conch Shell Award, for distinguished contributions to the history of the town of Amherst.

Romer’s presentation is part of the national lecture series and community-building initiative ‘The Birth of a Nation: Slavery, Resistance & Abolition.” The series is presented in conjunction with the Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services at the American Library Association (ALA), The United Nations’ Remember Slavery Programme, Fox Searchlight Pictures and BazanED.

Inspired by actor and director Nate Parker’s acclaimed film The Birth of a Nation, the series will run August 21 through October 30, 2016, commemorating the history-changing slave rebellion launched by the film’s subject, Nat Turner, on August 21, 1831, through his capture on October 30, 1831. The lecture series marks the 185th anniversary of Turner’s rebellion, as well as The United Nations’ International Day for the Remembrance of The Slave Trade and its Abolition, observed annually on August 23.

“We are honored that libraries will be the primary venues for these vitally important conversations across the country, and thankful that the Jones Library came on board to bring this series to its local community,” said Jody Gray, director of the Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services at the American Library Association. “Libraries are not just about housing books; they have always been about learning, exchanging ideas, and transforming lives — characteristics that this series perfectly reflects.”

About ‘The Birth of a Nation: Slavery Resistance & Abolition’ National Lecture Series

“The Birth of a Nation: Slavery, Resistance & Abolition” lecture series is taking place in libraries, museums, institutions of higher education, and community centers around the nation during the period of August 21st and October 30th 2016. Each free public event features a local educator or historian addressing the topic of slavery, resistance and abolition, and will provide an opportunity for individual communities to engage in a timely and coordinated national discussion.

About The Birth of a Nation movie

Set against the antebellum South, The Birth of a Nation follows Nat Turner (Nate Parker), a literate slave and preacher, whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner (Armie Hammer), accepts an offer to use Nat’s preaching to subdue unruly slaves. As he witnesses countless atrocities — against himself and his fellow slaves — Nat orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom. The film won the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Fox Searchlight Pictures will release The Birth of a Nation on October 7, 2016. The company acquired the film at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where it received rave reviews and won both the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic Competition.

About The American Library Association

The ALA is the oldest and largest library association in the world. Founded on October 6, 1876, during the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, the mission of the ALA is “to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.”

About The United Nations Remember Slavery Programme

The Remember Slavery Programme, managed by the Education Outreach Section of the United Nations Department of Public Information, was established by the General Assembly in its resolution 62/122 of 17 December 2007 to honour the memory of the victims of slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.  It also aims at raising awareness of the dangers of racism and prejudice today with activities held and educational materials produced throughout the year. To learn more about the United Nations ‘Remember Slavery’ programme, please contact Kimberly Mann, Chief, Education Outreach Section, at or

About Fox Searchlight Pictures

Fox Searchlight Pictures is a specialty film company that both finances and acquires motion pictures. It has its own marketing and distribution operations, and its films are distributed internationally by 20th Century Fox. Fox Searchlight Pictures is a unit of 21st Century Fox.

About BazanED

BazanED is a free teacher resource offering free materials for narrative films and documentaries, as well as curriculum guides and so much more to K-12 and College educators throughout the U.S. BazanED partners with entertainment, cultural, scientific and financial organizations to provide teachers with engaging, grade-appropriate content to supplement and support classroom instruction and enhance student learning.

A full high-school and college-level educational curriculum about Nat Turner’s rebellion that meets Common Core state standards will be available for teachers at, pegged to the major motion picture The Birth of a Nation. BazanED provides free curriculum materials to educators, and has previously launched successful educational initiatives on behalf of the 2014 Academy Award®-winning film Selma, the Jesse Owens biopic Race and Davis Guggenheim’s feature-length documentary film Teach.

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Janet Ryan, Head of Programming & Outreach

Jones Library, Amherst, MA  or 413/259-3223

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