Rebecca, Woman of Africa

Here, in a thick wood of scrub pine, blackberry, ivy, goldenrod, and crumbling stone walls, at the very edge of America, where “you hear the grating roar / Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,” is a plaque on which hikers pile stones and sea glass, as on the tomb of a Jewish sage or martyr. The plaque reads:


Born in Africa and enslaved in Chilmark, she married Elisha Amos, a Wampanoag man. She was the mother of Nancy Michael. Rebecca died a free woman in this place in 1801.

We come here very often, and I like to think of Rebecca and Amos clinging together on windy nights, whispering their true names, saying, “Ah, love, let us be true / To one another!,” safe at the tip of the continent, on a spot that nobody else wanted but the gulls and the cormorants.

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About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.