February Presentation: African Americans in Maine Prior to 1800

February 2, 2020 – 2:00 p.m. 

Scarborough Public Library, 48 Gorham RD, Scarborough, ME O4074

After a short business meeting, Vana Carmona will present “African Americans in Maine Before 1800” to the historical society.

About the Presentation

Photo of the entrance into the Eastern Cemetery, Portland, ME taken by Vana Carmona.

Photo by Vana Carmona.

The Eastern Cemetery is the final resting place of Portland’s founding fathers.  We know them for their contributions to the area’s political, social, cultural, and often military fabric.  But most do not know their “other” lives:  the lives in which they enslaved African Americans or were complicit in their enslavement.  Six years ago, Vana Carmona discovered inadvertently that her ancestors were among them.  This inspired her to launch The Prince Project, her study of slavery in Maine during the period before 1800.  As a docent for Spirits Alive, which overseas stone conservation and education in the Cemetery, she has used her knowledge to organize a tour of these very people.  She uses gravestones as a basis for discussing the individuals as well as the history of slavery in Maine.  She also provides insights on those African Americans buried in the two sections of the burial ground set aside to segregate them.  Her presentation is a virtual tour of Eastern Cemetery and covers these topics.

About Vana Carmona

A descendant of several early notable Maine families, Vana left the State after high school to indulge her wanderlust.  Her journey took her abroad and on to Sarah Lawrence College in New York, where she graduated with a BA in Italian and international studies.  Vana went on to work for the Italian press for several years.  Then, she had a “temporary” stay in Northern California that lasted 30 years.  During that time, she raised her two daughters, rode her horses, developed her business, and eventually returned to college for an advanced degree.  She holds a Masters in Medieval History from California State University Sacramento (CSUS).  Ten years ago, she returned to her hometown of Portland, bringing her Los Angeles husband with her.  They settled on Munjoy Hill, the area she most loved as a child.  Immediately she became involved in several local historic venues:  Maine Historical, Portland Observatory, and Eastern Cemetery.  During the last six years, she has pursued a major research project seeking out information on African Americans who were in Maine before 1800. They are all part of The Prince Project, her database of over 1600 free and enslaved people living here through the post-Revolutionary period. In her tours of Eastern Cemetery, Vana uses this work to help educate people about the history of slavery in Maine, a topic she believes needs greater attention.

The meeting is free and open to the public. (Donations are always welcome.)

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