Juneteenth And Hingham's Abolitionist History

By Kristen Arute, Hingham Current Staff, June 19, 2020
Photos Courtesy of Joe Collymore Small and Hingham Current file photo

In 1844, The Great Abolitionist Picnic took place at Tranquility Grove in Hingham. It was a celebration that was held decades before emancipation in the United States and marked the tenth anniversary of the end to slavery in the British West Indies. An estimated 6,000-10,000 people attended the event making it the largest abolitionist picnic in history. Among the notable guests was Frederick Douglass, and former President John Quincy Adams sent his remarks.

Last fall, the Hingham Land Conservation Trust hosted an event commemorating the picnic. Attendees were regaled by members of the Broad Cove Chorale and Unicorn Singers who sang songs that had been sung at the original picnic. Joe Collymore Small of Harbor Media read the speech that Frederick Douglass had given, and Martha Bewick, author of  “Tranquility Grove, The Great Abolitionist Picnic,” shared a reading from her book. Rev. Steve Aucella, pastor of New North Church, which has historical roots in the abolitionist movement, delivered remarks. The 1844 parade leading to Tranquility Grove began at the park right across from the church and many parishioners participated. "Our history is as an abolitionist church," said Rev. Aucella. "The Tranquility Grove event started right out in Fountain Square before everyone went down to the wharf to meet the steamships. Then when they arrived, they went on to Tranquility Grove."

Burns Memorial Park is located on the site of the original Tranquility Grove and is owned and maintained by the Hingham Conservation Commission.

Kristen Arute can be reached at kristen@hinghamcurrent.com.