Self-Guided Black Heritage Bike Tour

Level

 

  • Easy

 

What’s Not Included

  • Guide

  • Cost of Food

Additional Information​

  • If you want to make all of the delicious stops, plan on approximately 20-30 minutes per each stop to enjoy the food

  • While our guides provide water, you might consider bringing a sports drink or snack.

  • Any luggage, large bags, or bulky jackets can be left at the shop during the tour.

In 2015, Portsmouth installed a marker to honor the African ancestors who were brought to the state and their descendants who played key roles in its early history. Today’s downtown includes sites of the earliest urban settlement, the waterfront, homes of the early merchants, and, consequently, the earliest enslavements.

African presence in the colony of New Hampshire can be traced back to 1645, with the first documented captive person from the west coast of Africa; he was bought by a Mr. Williams of Piscataqua. Although the number of blacks in the colony was small in the 17th century, records of wills and inventories indicate that the enslaved were included in the estates of several prominent families. Because the colony of New Hampshire did not impose a tariff on the importation of captive Africans, many were transported to the state’s only port at Portsmouth or along the Piscataqua River and smuggled into Massachusetts and other colonies.

Portsmouth, with its history as a New England human trade hub, primarily transported the enslaved between Africa, Portsmouth, Virginia, and the West Indies. Africans who were victims of the trade usually arrived in the state through the port of Portsmouth, and according to Valerie Cunningham, “The town’s slave population grew from a reported 52 in 1727 to about 4% of the total population in 1767 when 187 slaves were reported . . .” with as many as 700 black people here by the American Revolution. By this time, the colony had become a major Atlantic seaport. Most of the enslaved worked in the shipyards, on the waterfront, in tradesmen’s workshops, and in family homes. As a result of a very active abolitionist group, the state became an Underground Railroad route of escape for enslaved people.

Cost 

$24 includes bicycle, helmet, water and guided APP. 

Tour Time

• 9 am - 1 pm 

Duration

• 4 - hours long

• 7-8 miles 

Includes

  • Helmet

  • Bike

  • Guide APP

1. John Paul Jones House, 43 Middle St.

The 2-1/2 story wood frame house was built in 1758 by the master housewright Hopestill Cheswell, a successful African-American builder in the city.[3] The house was built for Captain Gregory Purcell, who owned it with his wife Sarah until his death in 1776.[4]

After Purcell's death his wife took in boarders, until her own death in 1783. The American naval hero John Paul Jones rented a room at the widow Purcell's during 1781-1782, while supervising the construction of the ship America.

The house was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1972. The house is 2-1/2 stories high, with a gambrel roof, and two chimneys projecting from the interior. A two-story addition to the northeast was added in the early 19th century. The five-bay main facade has a central entry topped by a segmented arch pediment, supported by flanking pilasters. The first-floor windows of the main facade are topped by triangular pediments. The interior of the house follows a typical Georgian center-hall plan, with rooms flanking a central hall with stairs. To the left of the hall is a parlor in front, and a counting room or office in the rear, while to the right is a large dining room with what was originally the kitchen behind. Upstairs there are four bedrooms; that of Jones was in the southeast corner. The third floor has five bedrooms. The downstairs rooms now contain museum exhibits, and the dining room has been decorated to early 19th-century taste. The house has belonged to the Portsmouth Historical Society since 1919, and is open to the public.

2. Rockingham House, 401 State St. [private]

At the Rockingham Hotel which used to occupy the building on this site, Louis deRochemont forced a change in the hotel's policy by threatening to move the headquarters of his movie production out of the hotel. On the front of the building that used to be the Rockingham Hotel and now is the location of The Library Restaurant and four gold lions in front, has a plaque near the corner that states:
"'The March of Time' newsreel producer Louis deRochemont booked the Rockingham Hotel as production headquarters for his 1949 film, 'Lost Boundaries.' Many Blacks were among the locals employed as extras to tell this biographical story of 'passing' at a time when racial issues were not confronted openly. Told that the hotel did not welcome Black people, deRochemont offered to take his entire crew elsewhere, and thus changed the hotel's discriminatory practices."By the 1960s when civil rights activists were gradually forcing the implementation of new federal desegregation laws, the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) moved its meeting place to the Rockingham."

3. Docks & view of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Prescott Park

Enslavement of Africans was part of Portsmouth life by 1645, although the first records of Portsmouth merchants participating in the slave trade were in the 1680s, with captives mostly male children and adolescents sold directly from ship or dockside near the area where Prescott Park is now. A 1775 census reported 656 enslaved Africans in New Hampshire, mostly in Portsmouth and adjacent towns. Since colonial times, Portsmouth’s population has remained 2 to 4 percent, Black. 

4. South Meeting House, 280 Marcy St.

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5. Governor John Langdon House, 143 Pleasant St.

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6. Town Pump and Stocks, next to North Church 18 North Church, Market Square

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7. North Church, Market Square

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8. Moffatt-Ladd House, 154 Market St

Prince, enslaved by General William Whipple and his wife Katharine Moffatt, accompanied the general through several battles of the American Revolution but was not freed until 1784. In 1779, however, Prince and Winsor were two of twenty African-born men in Portsmouth who signed an elegantly worded petition asking the State legislature to abolish slavery. The lawmakers tabled the petition. The local newspaper printed the text in its issue of July 15, 1780 "for the amusement" of its readers
 

9. Saint John’s Church, 100 Chapel St

St. John’s Church: Black people were often documented in church records. Cunningham’s research offers a tantalizing entry in the 1807 records of St. John’s Church on Chapel Street. It says: “Contribution Xmas day, Venus – a Black — $1.” The fact that she made a donation suggests that she was free. Perhaps most touching is that she made a donation at all. Life for African-Americans in the early 19th century was difficult, and a dollar was a considerable amount of money for the average person, black or white.

10. Warner House, 150 Daniel St

Macphraedris-Warner House: The 1716 brick house was home to several prominent occupants including its builder, Archibald Macphraedris, the royal governor Benning Wentworth and merchant Jonathan Warner. During its colonial history, the house was also home to eight enslaved people. In 1779, Cato and Peter, who were owned by Warner, were two of 20 men who signed a petition to the New Hampshire Legislature to abolish slavery.p elements.

11. South Meeting House, 280 Marcy St.

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12. NH Gazette, corner of Howard & Washington Streets [private] 

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13. Penhallow House, 93 Washington St., Strawbery Banke Museum 

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14. Waterfront, Ceres Street

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15. African Burying Ground, Chestnut Street, between Court Street

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16. The Music Hall (The Temple ), Chestnut Street at Congress Street

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17. Seacoast African American Cultural Center 43 Middle Street

Founded by a former Portsmouth, NH Teacher, SAACC, was organized to increase the visibility of the rich African-American culture that exists here in New England.  In 2000, SAACC was launched with a coalition of members from various African American organizations in the seacoast area.

SAACC's mission is to celebrate the lives and achievements of black people with an emphasis on the unique story of African Americans and to infuse all people, especially young people, with knowledge of and appreciation for the history. Special programming and exhibits are on display now.

IN Season May 1 - Oct 20th

Tours Monday - Sunday 9am - 5:00pm

Reservation Monday - Sunday 8am - 8pm

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