Bowdoin College Scholar Explores the Issue of Slavery in Relation to the State of Maine

In 2020, the State of Maine will celebrate its 200th anniversary. Maine was originally a part of Massachusetts, but when Missouri joined the country as a slave-state, Congress agreed to create the new free state of Maine so the number of slave-states and free-states was equal.

Brian Purnell, an associate professor of history and Africana studies at Bowdoin College in Maine, believes that even though Maine’s statehood kept the balance between slave-states and free-states, it strengthened slavery elsewhere. Dr. Purnell suggests that during the state’s bicentennial celebrations, Maine should honor the five Maine Congressmen who voted against statehood and the Missouri Compromise. According to Purnell, these congressmen, “knew that freedom that promoted slavery was not freedom at all, and not worth the price. In commemorating them, we can build the courage to follow their lead on current issues of consequence.”

Dr. Purnell is a graduate of Fordham University where he double majored in history and African and African American studies. He holds a master’s degree and Ph.D. both in history from New York University. He is the author of Fighting Jim Crow in the County of Kings: The Congress of Racial Equality in Brooklyn (University Press of Kentucky, 2013).

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