Spirits Alive at the Eastern Cemetery
Spirits Alive at the Eastern Cemetery | eNews, February 2016
Portrait of a Black Sailor, artist unknown
Portrait of a Black Sailor (Paul Cuffe?), artist unknown, c. 1860, LA County Museum of Art

Black Jacks—African American Seamen in the Age of Sail

1:30pm to 3:00pm
Saturday, February 27, 2016
USM Wishcamper Center, Portland, ME

"Historian Randall Stakeman estimates that in 1850, more than half of the black working men in the state [of Maine] were in maritime-related trades—fishing, shipwrights, stewards, stevedores."*

Author, professor of history at the University of New Hampshire, and former professional mariner, W. Jeffrey Bolster will discuss how blacks working on the sea in the 18th and 19th century experienced unusual mobility compared to their landlocked brethren and were instrumental in building community along the coasts. He will also touch on Portland's thriving black community during that time and its link to a little known aspect of the maritime economy during the age of sail.

*"Blacks in Maine," Maine History Online

Memorial stone for Christopher Christian Manuel
Memorial marker for Christopher Christian Manuel in Eastern Cemetery

Subterranean Celebrity: Christopher Christian Manuel

Died 1845

In 1826, Mr. Manuel, with 5 others, published a letter in the Eastern Argus calling out the Second Congressional Church, where they worshipped, for treating them as if they shouldn't even be there:

“Nay, pardon our misapprehensions if they be such, we have sometimes thought our attendance was not desired.”*

They asked the state of Maine if they could start their own church which became the Abyssinian Congressional Church. Manuel is memorialized in the Eastern Cemetery with a beautiful flat granite marker that not only explains his life, but also marks it as part of the Portland Freedom Trail. A monument to the Trail was placed right outside the fence on Congress Street.

Christopher Christian Manuel
1781 - 1845
Activist, Barber and Musician
Born in Cape Verde, Africa
First President Portland
Union Anti-Slavery Society
(Portland Freedom Trail)

You can suggest a subterranean celebrity! Just send an email—it doesn't take much to make a nice little story. An index of all of our Subterranean Celebrities is available.

Ask Amazon to Donate to Spirits Alive

If you're an Amazon shopper, here's an easy way to support your favorite historic Maine cemetery:

  • Go to smile.amazon.com
  • Enter "Spirits Alive" in the box
  • Choose the non-profit in Portland, Maine from the list

Voila! A portion of all of your purchases through smile.amazon.com will go to our efforts to support, conserve and promote this historic outdoor museum. Thank you!

$5 Friendships Help the Eastern Cemetery

Support the work of Spirits Alive with your giving

For only $5, you can help Spirits Alive keep the Eastern Cemetery alive for generations to come and join as a Friend. Through your support, you can help us, an ALL-VOLUNTEER organization, to continue to:

  • Keep the gates open – encouraging the community to explore its open and safe green space
  • Offer education about the cemetery and its residents to the public – through tours, lectures, and events
  • Encourage and support the city in keeping the site clean and safe for visitors of all ages
  • Preserve this incredible outdoor museum and sacred historic landscape
We are a non-profit, all-volunteer organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of Portland, Maine’s historic Eastern Cemetery through a range of activities including promotion and education.