(Portsmouth, NH) Portsmouth state senator Martha Fuller Clark will join Gov. Maggie Hassan at the Discover Portsmouth Center for a brief ceremony marking the signing of Senate Bill 187 Friday morning at 11:30. The bill, which posthumously emancipates 14 African-American New Hampshire slaves, was introduced by Clark at the beginning of this year's session after initially being introduced 234 years ago.
"I see this legislation as both discharging a long-overdue responsibility and a reminder of the centuries-long presence and contributions African-Americans have made to New Hampshire," said Clark. "Along with efforts like the Portsmouth African Burying Ground restoration and efforts by the Portsmouth Historical Society to promote the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail, I also see this as another demonstration of Portsmouth and New Hampshire honoring African-Americans who helped build the state."
This legislation has a long history, having been originally submitted to the New Hampshire General Assembly on Nov. 12, 1779, by 20 African-American slaves from New Hampshire. This petition was discovered in the state archives nearly 30 years ago by local Portsmouth historian Valerie Cunningham. Six of the petitioning slaves were later freed while the remaining 14 died in chattel slavery. Current plans also include incorporating language from the original petition in the Portsmouth African Burying Ground site.
About Martha: Martha served terms in both the New Hampshire House and Senate since the ‘90s. A two-time candidate for the U.S. Congress, she currently serves as Vice-Chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, a member of DNC and, in 2008 and again in 2012 served as co-chair of the New Hampshire Committee to elect Barack Obama President of the United States. Martha participates on many different boards and commissions in her community. She presently serves as President of the Board of Strawbery Banke, as an advisor to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and is the past President of Scenic America.