Author Archives: The Cambridge Room

WBZ4’s Lev Reid Features Cambridge’s Black Trailblazers

Congratulations to the Cambridge Black History Project and their wonderful work, celebrating the lives of fifteen extraordinary Black Cantabrigians, Trailblazers, whose contributions and accomplishments have been often overlooked.

Stop by any Cambridge Public Library branch for a bookmark or come to the Main Library to view the Trailblazer exhibition, on display through February 28th.

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The Cambridge Black History Project Honors Black Trailblazers at the Library on January 26

Date & Time:
January 26, 2023
Reception: 6-7 pm
Talk: 7-8 pm
In Person and Virtual
Lecture Hall, Main Library
REGISTER HERE

Join us to celebrate the official launch of CBHP’s new series of Trailblazer Bookmarks, which honors the extraordinary lives of Black Cantabrigians whose accomplishments have often been overlooked. An evening of music, mingling, and discussion will salute these individuals whose influence reaches far beyond our city limits. Eight new bookmarks will be unveiled:

Barbara Ward Armstrong, Artist, Musician, Creator
Olive Benson, Innovative Hair-Care Entrepreneur
Calvin Burnett, Daring Artist and Gifted Teacher
Dr. June Christmas, Pioneer in Public Health
Dr. Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, Faith and Action
Johnny Hodges, Jazz Saxophonist Extraordinaire
Kittie Towle Knox, Cycling Pioneer and Champion Racer
Gus Solomons Jr., Contemporary Dancer, Innovator, Mentor

The opening reception will feature music by jazz and classical musician Joel LaRue Smith, followed by a program recognizing these and other remarkable individuals.  Free illustrated bookmarks will be available. Registration is required.

“The Missing Organ: The Democrat’s Spine,” Michael Shapiro’s Political Cartoons

The Missing Organ from the Michael Shapiro Papers.

Exhibit Location: Lobby & Second Floor of the Main Library

Artist, poet, zine producer, playwright, cartoonist, Yiddish translator, and mathematician, Michael Shapiro began creating political cartoons in the early 2000s, during the presidency of George W. Bush. 

Shapiro was born in New York City and grew up in Woodside Queens. He earned a B.S. from the University of Massachusetts at Boston in 1983, a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1988, and a M.E. in Computer Science from Cornell University in 2000.

Shapiro grew up in a leftist Jewish household and came of age during the 1960s, participating in the counterculture revolution. Shapiro self describes as a Marginal, part of the Marginal Scene.

He lived for many years in Cambridge until moving to London in 2019 to work at the Crick Institute.

Michael Shapiro’s papers now are part of the Library’s Archives and Special Collections.

Do you have a Cambridge story? Submit it to the Jukebox!

Jukebox is a participatory public art project that is dedicated to creating a center point for gathering, listening, and sharing our stories. The jukebox currently holds 25 stories – this leaves room for 75 more Cambridge community recordings!

All 100 stories will be preserved at the Cambridge Public Library’s Archives and Special Collections.

Priority will be given to stories that connect to the Jukebox mission of amplifying Cambridge stories and voices that are underrepresented and/or often go unheard. We will accept story submissions until the jukebox is full with 100 stories. Feel free to reach out to hello@foundryjukebox.org with questions or submit a story here.

Curator Talk: The Life and Metal Art of Abraham Megerdichian 

Date & Time:
October 12, 2022
6:30 – 8 pm
In Person
Cambridge Room, Main Library
REGISTER HERE

Join us for a curator talk on the life and metal art of Abraham Megerdichian.   Abraham’s son and decades long Cambridge resident, Robert, will “speak with” his deceased father about Abraham’s hobby of machining from solid scrap metal his interpretations of everyday objects, and then giving them away as gifts to family and friends.  After Abraham died in 1983 his pieces were put away, where many of them lay until 2013.  Since then Abraham’s son, Robert, has had pieces from the collection exhibited at nearly 20 venues in New England and beyond.  This talk accompanies the first major exhibit in Cambridge of Abraham’s artwork and professional photographer Scott Sutherland’s photographs of the artwork, which is on display at the Main Library from September 19th to October 14th.

Love in Metal: Abraham Megerdichian Machined Metal Miniatures  

Date & Time:
September 19 – October 14, 2022
Main Library Hours
In Person

Join us for the first major art exhibit in Cambridge of Abraham Megerdichian’s metal miniatures on display at the Main Library from September 19th to October 14th.  Lifelong local machinist, Abraham machined from solid scrap metal his interpretations of everyday objects, and gave them away as gifts to family and friends.  After Abraham died in 1983 his pieces were put away, where many of them lay until 2013.  Since then Abraham’s son, Robert, has had pieces from the collection exhibited at nearly 20 venues in New England and beyond.  Also on exhibit are professional photographer Scott Sutherland’s photographs of the artwork.  The artwork is on display throughout the Main Library –  in the lobby, on the second floor, in the Cambridge Room, and in the Children’s Room.  Join us for a curator talk by Robert on October 12 at 6:30 pm in the Cambridge Room.  

The Library Takes First Prize: 1975 4th of July Parade

Poster from the Cambridge Bicentennial Corporation Records.

The United States Bicentennial was a significant event in the city of Cambridge. Planning for the two-year celebration began in 1971 and was managed by the Cambridge Bicentennial Corporation. One of the corporation’s major events was the “Great Cambridge Parade,” held on July 4, 1975, to mark the 200th anniversary of General George Washington taking command of the Continental Army in Cambridge.

The festivities were extensive: Minutemen units, bands, floats, and ceremonial military units. Heading the parade was Richard B. Washington, a descendant of George Washington’s brother, John.

The Cambridge Public Library won first prize for their float called, “Ethnicity,” which “celebrates the city’s wide and diverse ethnic population and the rich customs they keep alive.”

The poster and photographs come from the Cambridge Bicentennial Corporation Records, which are housed at the Cambridge Public Library’s Archives and Special Collections.

Recording Available – Reading the Gravestones of Old Cambridge

We were fortunate to have John Hanson, expert on early New England epitaphs and bibliophile, give the lecture Reading the Gravestones of Old Cambridge. The talk, part of the Spring Lecture Series from the Cambridge Room, was recorded on June 8, 2022.

The following is a description of the workshop and a short bio of John Hanson:

The burial grounds of old New England hold a wonderful range of poetic messages in the epitaphs carved on their gravestones, each a profound expression of emotion, culture, religion, and literature.  Too often dismissed as mere sentimental doggerel, these passages can be fascinating and well worth paying attention to.  After all, every single epitaph was chosen, deliberately, on an occasion of the utmost gravity and importance, the death of a parent or child or spouse or neighbor.  Join John Hanson, expert on early New England epitaphs, as he shares some outstanding verses on old stones in Cambridge’s Old Burying Ground.  He will reveal their sources of inspiration, including Scripture, hymnody, poetry, and epitaphs made-to-order for a particular individual.  We will consider what these very personal choices tell us about early New Englanders’ attitudes towards life, death, and eternity.

John Hanson has been collecting early New England epitaphs for years, examining where the verses originated, how their source texts were accessed, and the spiritual and commercial context in which they were chosen and carved on gravestones.  He is the author of Reading the Gravestones of Old New England (McFarland, 2021), and has published and spoken extensively on his research.  Hanson is a Massachusetts native, and lives in Cambridge and the Berkshires.  His book, Reading the Gravestones of Old New England, can be ordered directly from the publisher or from Amazon.

The Black Population of Cambridge by Census Year, 1790 – 2020

George Washington Lewis Jr. family at 47 Parker
Street. Photo ca. 1900. The Lewis Family, a large extended family, were a well known African American family who first established roots in Cambridge in the early 19th Century.
Census Year Total PopulationNumber of Black ResidentsPercent of Population
17902,115602.8%
18002,453251.0%
18102,32339*1.7%
18203,295531.6%
18306,072791.3%
18408,409770.9%
185015,215140**0.9%
186026,0603541.3%
187039,6348222.1%
188052,6691,5042.9%
189070,0281,9882.8%
190091,8863,8884.2%
1910104,8394,7074.5%
1920109,6945,3344.9%
1930113,6435,4194.8%
1940110,8794,8584.4%
1950120,7405,2804.4%
1960107,7165,6715.3%
1970100,3616,7836.8%
198095,32210,41810.9%
199095,80212,93013.5%
2000101,35512,07911.9%
2010105,16212,25311.7%
2020118,40812,52010.6%

*includes West Cambridge (1 person)
*includes 41 listed as Mulatto and 99 listed as Black

Citations:
1790, 1800, 1820, 1840, 1860, 1880, 1900, 1920, 1940, 1960, 1980, 2000: from Slavery and Its Aftermath in Cambridge by Charles Sullivan, Executive Director, Cambridge Historical Commission, 13 January 2021. Available here: https://www.cambridgema.gov/-/media/Files/citymanagersoffice/monumentsadvisorycommittee/Slavery_and_its_Aftermath_in_Cambridge.pdf.

1810: Total from column, “all other free persons except Indians not taxed,” in 1810 census

1830: Total from column, “free colored persons,” in 1830 census

1850: Counted total from race column in the 1850 census

1870: Census totaled from race column in the 1870 census. Column totaled as “colored” and includes Black and Mulatto. Ward 1: 87; Ward 2: 626; Ward 3: 9; Ward 4: 82; Ward 5: 18. Total 822.

1890: Compendium of the Eleventh Census: 1890, Part I Population, Department of the Interior, Census Office, 1892. Cambridge is on page 552. Available here: https://www.google.com/books/edition/Compendium_of_the_Eleventh_Census_1890_P/L2tVWSA9xUAC?hl=en&gbpv=1

1900-1910: Negro population in the United States, 1790-1915, edited by William Loren Katz, 1968. Available here: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=pst.000053752499&view=1up&seq=104&skin=2021&size=125&q1=cambridge1950: https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/decennial/1950/population-volume-2/38840572v2p21ch4.pdf.

1910-1930: Negroes in the United States, 1920-1932, by United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1935. Available here: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uiug.30112047636300&view=1up&seq=83&size=125&q1=cambridge

1970: 1970 Census of Population, Characteristics of the Population, Massachusetts, 1973. Available here: https://www2.census.gov/prod2/decennial/documents/1970a_ma-01.pdf

1990: Comparison of Cambridge, MA. U. S. Census Short Form Results:
1980, 1990 & 2000
, Cambridge Community Development, 17 May 2004. Available here: https://www.cambridgema.gov/-/media/Files/CDD/FactsandMaps/PopulationData/Citywide/census_1980to2000_sf1_comp.pdf

2010: Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010
Demographic Profile Data
, U.S. Census Bureau, 27 June 2011. Available here: https://www.cambridgema.gov/-/media/Files/CDD/FactsandMaps/PopulationData/Citywide/census_2010_sf1_profile.pdf

2020: Cambridge: Population and People, U.S. Census Bureau. Available here: https://data.census.gov/cedsci/profile?g=1600000US2511000

Cambridge Population: From Cambridge, Massachusetts Wikipedia Page, Demographics. Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambridge,_Massachusetts#Demographics

Register Now for Reading the Gravestones of Old Cambridge

Date & Time:
June 8, 2022
12:00pm – 1:00pm
Virtual
REGISTER HERE

The burial grounds of old New England hold a wonderful range of poetic messages in the epitaphs carved on their gravestones, each a profound expression of emotion, culture, religion, and literature.  Too often dismissed as mere sentimental doggerel, these passages can be fascinating and well worth paying attention to.  After all, every single epitaph was chosen, deliberately, on an occasion of the utmost gravity and importance, the death of a parent or child or spouse or neighbor.  Join John Hanson, expert on early New England epitaphs, as he shares some outstanding verses on old stones in Cambridge’s Old Burying Ground.  He will reveal their sources of inspiration, including Scripture, hymnody, poetry, and epitaphs made-to-order for a particular individual.  We will consider what these very personal choices tell us about early New Englanders’ attitudes towards life, death, and eternity.

John Hanson has been collecting early New England epitaphs for years, examining where the verses originated, how their source texts were accessed, and the spiritual and commercial context in which they were chosen and carved on gravestones.  He is the author of Reading the Gravestones of Old New England (McFarland, 2021), and has published and spoken extensively on his research.  Hanson is a Massachusetts native, and lives in Cambridge and the Berkshires.  Hanson is the author of Reading the Gravestones of Old New England and can be ordered directly from the publisher or from Amazon.