My thanks to The Free Soil Arts Collective for a print copy of this book.
Rating: 4.5 stars
Genre: Nonfiction - Oral History/Local History
Hidden in Plain Sight: Stories of Black Lowell, is a storytelling project chronicling the lived experiences of Black people in Lowell, MA. Through intimate interviews with Black Lowellians, we have shed a light on an often under-explored narrative of Lowell’s history. These stories will be published in a book and displayed in an exhibit at the Lowell National Historical Park in December.
Hidden in Plain Sight is a treasure to the City of Lowell. As mentioned in the book, the city has only recently begun to acknowledge the contributions of Black folks and has a long way to go on supporting Black Lowell.
The collection begins with brief histories of Black neighborhoods that have been destroyed in the city and then follows the stories of some who knew them and some who didn’t. This book truly shows that Black people are not a monolith! Those who share their stories are diverse in terms of ethnicity (African American, African, Caribbean), age, class, and outlook. Some interviewees are passionate about building a better Lowell while others don’t have any hope in the place they called home anymore.
I truly enjoyed this book but wish that there was more history in the section on the Underground Railroad in Lowell. This section was still interview focused, but I had expected it to be more like the mini histories of the historically Black neighborhoods. A lot of the participants mentioned Bob Forrant’s tour of the Underground Railroad stops in Lowell, which I’m definitely interested in seeing. If this history had been included alongside the participant’s words, I believe this book would have packed even more of a punch. However, I understand that it is about oral histories.
The best way to describe Hidden in Plain Sight is honest. Yes, there is hope but only to an extent. Some Black folx are dedicated to continuing the fight, but they need help. Others wish they didn’t have to fight, and that’s fair. Hopefully, the city of Lowell takes notice and Black folks who are the minority in other cities gain insight and/or a feeling of support from it their words.
I know I did.