At a moment when colleges and universities across the country, including Bowdoin, are actively stripping away their historical and economic ties to slavery, I want to call our community’s attention to another, perhaps less-talked about but no less significant, tie to our past. Last month, the Network to Freedom, a branch of the National Park Service devoted to preserving and disseminating information about the Underground Railroad, the symbolic name given to the vast route slaves developed to secure their freedom, designated The Stowe House an official stop on the Underground Railroad. The Stowe House, named after Harriet Beecher Stowe who resided at 63 Federal Street from 1850-52, was where she wrote “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” A less known fact about the house is that Stowe harbored fugitive slave John Andrew Jackson in the “waste room” of the house so that he could continue his journey for freedom that began when he fled his home on a plantation in South Carolina.

While the House was designated a national landmark in 1962, to commemorate the novel that supposedly helped to start the Civil War, it took another half century for the nation—and the College—to recognize the house as a site for freedom. With the official recognition from the National Park Service we now have cause to celebrate our history. I urge you to visit the House that will soon be open to all members of the College—and the nation.
Tess Chakkalakal
Associate Professor, Africana Studies and English