Hingham Black History Timeline2021-02-26T10:35:56-05:00

Hingham’s Black History

This ongoing and collaborative timeline shares the history, achievements and contributions of our Black community members living and working in Hingham throughout the past three centuries. We know we have only begun to scratch the surface with this timeline and that there are many more stories and events to be shared and will continue to update this page. We are especially interested in hearing stories from residents whose families have lived this history. Documents, photographs, and oral histories that they would be willing to share would be greatly appreciated. Click here to submit contributions.

View references and contributors to this timeline. We will continue to update individual entries with direct citations to sources as we develop this project. We have indicated the places where we have relied on individual recollections and interviews for information.

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January 2021

1750: Hingham’s first shipyard opens

Captain Francis Barker opened Hingham’s first shipyard at Hingham Harbor, building schooners for coastal trade. Hingham’s trade in lumber and its mackerel fleet remained active in the triangular trade supporting slavery in the West Indies into the first half of the 19th century, after slavery was abolished in Massachusetts. 

1770s: Free and enslaved Black men fight in militia units raised in Hingham

During the Revolutionary War, free and enslaved Black men fought in militia units raised in Hingham. Among the Black men who fought in Hingham militia units were Winsor Barker, Caesar Blake, Squire Cushing, Joseph Dunbar, Joseph Falmouth, Asher Freeman, Jack Freeman, Jubal Freeman, and Caesar Scott. Cromwell Barnes a free Black man from Hingham, enlisted in a Boston militia unit in 1779.

1801: James Tuttle marries Rebecca Humphrey in Hingham

James Tuttle married Rebecca Humphrey in Hingham. Tuttle (ca 1780-1847) was a pillar of the small neighborhood of Tuttleville, which existed at the intersection of High and Ward Streets. His son John Tuttle is credited with leading the effort to build a small church in Tuttleville in the 1870s. Watch Harbor Media's interviews with descendants of the Tuttles.

1844: Hingham Anti-Slavery Society hosts the largest anti-slavery rally in the United States

The event was referred to as the “Great Abolitionist Pic Nic” and took place in Tranquility Grove (known today as Burns Memorial Park on Hersey Street). Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and other luminaries of the abolition movement traveled to Hingham, where an estimated 10,000 people had gathered in support of the anti-slavery cause.  Douglass gave an address at First Baptist Church before the attendees processed to Tranquility Grove for further speeches and entertainment. Watch Hingham High School graduate Emma Ryan's documentary video about Tranquility Grove

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1873: A group of Tuttleville residents petitions the Town of Hingham for land to build an evangelical chapel

A group of Tuttleville residents, led by John Tuttle, a son of James and Rebecca Tuttle, petitioned the Town of Hingham for land to build an evangelical chapel at the corner of Ward and High Streets. The chapel, which also functioned as a community center, dance hall and school, was called the Free Christian Mission.  According to Hingham Historical Society records, official membership in 1890 was 80. Read more

1924-1927: Flaming Crosses

On July 8, 1924, the Boston Globe reported a flaming cross on Beal Street in Hingham. According to the article, police believed that members of the Ku Klux Klan had something to do with the incident. From 1927-1927, according to Not All is Changed, the Hingham Journal also reported four "fiery" crosses: one behind Lovell's greenhouse (this is very likely the Beal Street cross reported in the Globe), one at the back of Linscott Road, one in the Damstra meadow, and one atop Otis Hill.

1940: Racially restrictive covenants in Hingham home deeds

The Town approved zoning changes that made it possible to help establish Bradley Woods. Original documents from this development reveal that racially restrictive covenants were part of the deeds of these homes. The deeds state in section G that “No persons of any race other than the Caucasian race shall use or occupy any building or any lot, except this covenant shall not prevent occupancy by domestic servants of another race domiciled with an owner or tenant.” Read more

1941 US Navy takes land to create ammunition depot

The U.S. Navy announced it would take the land now known as Wompatuck State park to create a Hingham Naval Ammunition Depot Annex. To do so they evicted families and closed streets and “... took the property from the poor people .. some were black families.” Admirals who participated in the acquisition told Hingham citizen, Tom Sweeney, years later that “if you people had protested just a little more, we would have yielded.” This acquisition forced many poor families to move out of Hingham.

1941-1945: Black soldiers and sailors in Hingham

Hundreds of Black soldiers and sailors came to live in Hingham during WWII. They were not only segregated in the service, but also segregated in Hingham. They were not welcome at the Recreation Center. According to the Hingham Journal, the soldiers “know that segregation to a certain degree is mandatory [but] what to do to make them feel at home?”

1942: The South Shore Citizens Club

The South Shore Citizens Club is co-founded by Hingham residents Marion “Mother” (Lindsey) Teague and her father, Herbert Lindsey on February 24, 1942 (the organization was incorporated May 12, 1961). Throughout the years, the SSCC planned and executed many different kinds of events, including dances, annual breakfasts and buffets, teas and fundraisers. According to records, they also raised scholarship money for "minority" students on the South Shore. Read more

1943: Dance for Black soldiers

Herbert Lindsay and Mabel Diggs, with the help of a Hingham Recreation committee, organized a dance for “colored sailors stationed locally” in the Agricultural Hall (now the site of the Hingham Public Library). Guests enjoyed refreshments and several dances such as “a conga line, jitter bug contest, waltz contest, slipper dance and elimination dance.” Shirley Bonitto is recorded as the secretary of the group responsible for the dance.

February 2021

1943: David DeLuze becomes the first Black crane operator at the Hingham Shipyard

Born on Nantucket to Cape Verdean parents, David DeLuze moved to Hingham in 1942 to seek employment at the Hingham Shipyard, where he was placed on the waitlist. He found work in New Hampshire until he was finally offered a job at the Shipyard in 1943. Mr. DeLuze worked first as an oiler and then became the Shipyard’s first Black crane operator. Up until World War II, the racially segregated Navy limited Black sailors to the role of mess attendants, but the demands of the war forced the Navy to begin training them for other jobs, often involving dangerous tasks with ammunition. Read more

January 2021

1962: Formation of Fair Housing Committee

After Hingham resident and Black realtor Louis T. Bonitto (husband to Shirley (Tuttle) Bonitto), speaks to the South Shore Citizens Club about helping Black families find homes, a Fair Housing Committee is formed.

1962: Louis T. Bonitto: Hingham’s first Black police officer

Hingham hires its first Black police officer, Louis T. Bonitto, son of Shirley (Tuttle) Bonitto and Louis L. Bonitto. Prior to this, Mr. Bonitto was a US Army drill instructor and afterwards, he became one of the South Shore's first Black realtors as well as one of IBM's first Black account executives. Click here to watch Joe Collymore of Harbor Media's 2021 interview with Louis T. Bonitto.

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1970: Old Ship “Lock-In-On-Race”

Old Ship Church hosts a “Lock-In-On-Race” for fifty-five students, both Black METCO and white Hingham classmates and teachers to discuss racism in America for thirteen hours. In our interview with Eugene Roundtree, who was in attendance, he recounted that this event stimulated on-going dialogue on race in town.

February 2021

2011: Tuttle and Simpson Family Reunions

Tuttle and Simpson Family Reunion held in Whitman. 120 family members gather to learn about their rich history in southeastern Massachusetts. During the reunion, research by Marion Teague and Rosa Edwards-Ellis is shared through photographs, documents and posters. During the search for information, the family found out that Marion Teague is 27% Native and a descendent of several area tribes including Chappaquiddick, Wampanoag and Nipmuc. The Tuttles have hosted many family reunions over the years, starting in 1956. Read more

January 2021

2012: JB Mills memorializes crew from 1944 depot tragedy

Memorial dedication of the USS YF-145 held at Bare Cove Park. J.B. Mills, Hingham resident and former member of the crew, funded the etched stone to memorialize the crew that died in the tragedy. The USS YF-415 sank after an explosion on May 11, 1944 killing 17 of 30 sailors on board. Mills had volunteered for USS YF-415 duty that day but was instead assigned administrative duty. He knew all the Hingham soldiers who died, all of whom were recorded to have been "Afro-Americans." According to Jim Rose, “Mills always resented the way Blacks were treated as second class citizens in the service. Black sailors were assigned menial jobs like stewards and dangerous duty like loading ammunition.” Read more

February 2021

January 2021

2021: Ward Street barn recognized as a historical building

The barn at 111 Ward Street that was the official meeting place for members of the South Shore Citizens Club is officially recognized as a historical site by the Town of Hingham thanks to the efforts of seventh generation Tuttle and Hingham resident Joyce Barber. The barn was also used as a place to celebrate family milestones such as the twenty-fifth wedding anniversary of Marion Teague and her husband Bob. Marion founded the South Shore Citizens Club with her father in 1942. Read more

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