History 2129/EnvS 2449 Reading Guide

Race, Class, and Community:  the Maine Coast, Cundy's Harbor, Malaga Island

  • Randy Stakeman, “The Black Population of Maine, 1764-1900,” New England Journal of Black Studies no. 8 (1989): 17-35.  (e-reserve)
  • Carl Patrick Burrowes, “A Child of the Atlantic:  The Maine Years of John Brown Russwurm,” Maine History 47.2 (2013), 163-189.  (e-reserve)
  • William D. Barry, “The Shameful Story of Malaga Island,” Down East Magazine XXVII:4 (November 1980): 53-56, 83-86.  (e-reserve)
  • document:  Holman Day, “The Queer Folk of the Maine Coast,” Harper’s Monthly Magazine CXIX.712 (September 1909), 521-530.  (e-reserve)
  • document:  Lauris Percy, “Strange Scenes on a Strange Island,” Casco Bay Breeze, Aug. 24, 1905.  .pdf
  • film: Anchor of the Soul 60 Minutes (1994).


  • If the Maine environment shaped the economic opportunities of Anglo-Americans who settled in Maine, and who created communities on the coast (and in the hill country and the Maine woods), what kinds of opportunities—and limits to opportunities—did the environment and the economic and cultural communities on the coast (and rivers) offer to migrants who weren’t Anglo-American?
  • Randy Stakeman’s pathbreaking article on the Black population in Maine uses the evidence from state and national decennial censuses to provide an overview of the history of Maine’s African-American residents over 135 years. How does he use that data to describe population trends over time, determine where newcomers were born and the significance of that prior experience, residential clustering and dispersion within and between Maine towns, the economic opportunities black residents sought and found, and the “communities” they were able to create?
  • Carl Patrick Burrowes provides a remarkable case study of opportunity and discrimination in his examination of the years John Brown Russwurm spent in Maine. What evidence did he use, and how does he build his account of Russwurm’s years in Maine to support his argument about the “complex and contradictory nature of America’s antebellum racial landscape” (182)?
  • William Barry, and the two early twentieth century authors (both of whom Barry quotes in his article), present a rather different case study. According to Barry, what happened when African-Americans attempted to create separate communities? In what ways was Malaga unusual, and in what ways was it symptomatic of race relations in Maine?
  • What did Holman Day and Lauris Percy hope to convey at the “Queer folk” and “Strange Scenes” that they described, and what did they hope to achieve through their accounts?
  • Anchor of the Soul depicts the struggle of African-Americans who worked to create and sustain a church in Portland—the site of the largest Black population in Maine, in the least diverse region of America.  How does the film describe this particular history of African-Americans and race relations in northern New England?  What roles did the church play in the community