What does it mean to identify as African, Black or African American in New Hampshire?


by Emerald Anderson-Ford



What does it mean to identify as African, Black or African American in New Hampshire? How can one attempt to define and understand the nuances of the experience of such a large diaspora that represents such a small percentage of the Granite State’s population? In 2020, New Hampshire’s black population was approximately 21,000 people, according to census data; this represents approximately 2% of the state’s total population. If there are 21,000 blacks in the Granite State, suppose there are 21,000 ways to be Black.

In our broader society, we see images of black people, black people, largely in densely populated urban centers; in the towns. Cities offer a diversity of cuisine, art, experiences and culture that often reflect the needs and hopes of Black communities. It makes sense that people who carry racial and ethnic identities who have not, historically, held the majority would gather in places where their identity is reflected and celebrated.

New Hampshire, on the other hand, has a smaller population than the city of Boston, 1.4 million and 4.9 million, respectively. The state’s largest city is Manchester, whose city center and cultural offerings have grown significantly over the past decade, but may still leave members of minority groups wanting more. So what does this mean for the 21,000 Black people who call the Granite State home? Where do we find places of congregation to explore and understand the unique needs of our community and to better analyze how to address the challenges our individual identities face, as we envision large-scale community progress?

After the American Civil War, during Reconstruction, black people migrated from the Southeastern United States to the Northeast, Midwest, and Western United States to escape violence, disenfranchisement and to the oppression sanctioned by the Southern Jim Crow government. According to the United States National Archives, approximately 6 million black people moved and continued their family heritage and traditions outside of the American South.

Between 1910 and 1970, NH’s black population increased from about 201 to about 2,700 people, as blacks headed north, through Boston, and settled in the Granite State. Since then, we have witnessed an ever-increasing population of people identifying as part of the African diaspora. This population boom has been largely driven by the increase in the number of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers from various countries in Africa and the Caribbean over the past 20 years. In a state the size of New Hampshire, with a small Black population that embodies diverse lineages and cultures, what does it mean to be Black in New Hampshire?

The influence of black people in New Hampshire cannot be overstated, but it is often overlooked. In the political, educational and social fields, policies and laws are created and passed that have a significant impact on the Black community and other communities of color, without recognizing the ways in which Black people have contributed to the evolution and the economic growth of the country. The granite state. Our presence may seem invisible when looking at population statistics, but the consequences and outcomes of many state, municipal, and district policies have a disproportionately negative impact on us.

This history, these numbers, and the recognition of these points are important, because as we seek to understand and explore blackness in NH, we must care about the diversity of what blackness is and how we live as well as the societal pressures that result from it, differently. Often, black people and black culture are seen as a monolith. If one of us speaks, we must speak for ALL of us. In our society, each black person represents the collective. But the history of migration, immigration and black movements tells us a different story. The history of black migration is as rich in diversity as the diaspora itself, and that history includes New Hampshire.

How do Black Granite Staters maintain their elements of identity and culture? especially in a state that is less racially diverse than 95% of the country? How do traditions of food, clothing, hair and skin care, resource sharing, and art survive and thrive here? The stories and experiences shared here will provide insight into the multifaceted identities of blackness in NH.

Emerald Anderson Ford

emerald Anderson-Ford is an itinerant philosopher, anti-racist strategist and abolitionist. She resides in Manchester.

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