In professional learning programs, teachers engage in weekly community-based assignments and discussions to explore the complexities of place, beginning with a foundational investigation to “Uncover Stories of Place” about a non-dominant group in their community. Learn about some of the stories that teachers uncovered, personal reflections, and applications with their students. What stories might you uncover about your own place?
Josie Michaud of FabNewport uncovered the story of Pompe Stevens, an enslaved person of William Stevens, owner of a stone carving shop in 18th century Newport, Rhode Island. Pompe Stevens was a trained stone carver and carved his own brother’s gravestone. The epitaph reads “This stone was cut by Pompe Stevens in Memory of his brother Cuffe Gibbs who died Dec. 27 1768 Age 40 Years.” The stone is decorated skillfully with design elements unique to Williams’ shop.
This left a few important clues to the past which may have been obscured by history. For one, enslaved people were given the name of their enslaved people owners so his name would have been different from his brother and their family relationship would have been lost if not for the gravestone. This is the only stone amongst thousands identifying a Black man’s relationship to his family rather than his owner. Second, by signing his name as the carver, he left proof that enslaved people were trained artisans, despite most of their work being attributed to white business owners and artisans. His skill as a carver was undeniable yet this stone and only one other, because he signed them, are attributed to him. This implies many other stones had been carved by Pompe Stevens, although were unsigned and accredited to William Stevens. Third, it is an undeniable record of Northern participation in slavery and a glaring inconsistency in founding ideals of freedom, tolerance and meritocracy in colonial America.
On April 22, you have an opportunity to join fellow teachers to learn about the stories that teachers have uncovered and their personal reflections and applications with their students. Join us virtually for Teton Science Schools’ sixth annual Place-Based Education Symposium, focused on education for a just, vibrant, sustainable world on April 22, 2022 from 4-7:30 MST.
Are you motivated to uncover stories about your own place? Follow these steps to uncover your own stories and share them with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.