The Old North Foundation is thrilled to introduce our brand new video series, Illuminating the Unseen. Written and presented by our Research Fellow, Dr. Jaimie Crumley, the series dives into the Old North Church’s archival documents to shine a light on the Black and Indigenous people who have often been excluded in the church’s broader historical narrative.
See below for the video, episode transcript, and Jaimie’s bio!
Hello! I am Jaimie Crumley, the Research Fellow at the Old North Foundation. Welcome to Illuminating the Unseen, a video series where we use archival research to learn the stories of people of many races and genders who have contributed to the history of Old North Church.
My specialty is in using archival documents to understand the history of the social constructions of race, gender, and religion in United States History. My work here at Old North is to study primary source materials about the church in hopes of uncovering some of the stories of the people of Black African descent who have interacted with Old North during its nearly three-hundred-year history.
To do this work requires an unusual approach to studying archival materials. Like other researchers, I visit the archive to gain new insights by reading familiar documents. However, I also seek out the stories that the archives do not readily reveal. My focus is on the people who were not the elite white men who are typically celebrated in Old North’s history. I read these men’s stories with an eye toward those who might not be named. The people who interacted with elite while male Old North parishioners also have stories to share. While English families contributed financially to the early church, often using profits from the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the displacement of Indigenous peoples, Black African and Indigenous peoples have contributed just as much to the church’s history.
This series will track how, throughout this church’s long history, people of all races, cultures, faith traditions, and genders have collaborated to make the Old North Church and the North End what they are today. The church’s current success as a congregation and historic site was not inevitable. People have worked, and continue to work, collaboratively to sustain it.
Join me as we study primary source documents about the people of the Old North Church together. We will read sources as varied as pew deeds, wills, letters, Books of Common Prayer, and newspaper articles with an eye toward the people who might be overlooked in the dominant story the source tells. Together, we will learn how more carefully tending to the past can help us create a more ethical future.
I hope you will join me as we learn new stories about the people who have made The Old North Church what it is!
Dr. Jaimie D. Crumley is the Research Fellow at the Old North Foundation. She holds a PhD in Gender Studies from UCLA and Master of Divinity and Master of Sacred Theology degrees from Yale Divinity School. As Old North’s Research Fellow, she explores archival documents to learn about Black and Indigenous peoples’ experiences at Old North throughout its three-hundred-year history. Jaimie is particularly interested in Black and Indigenous women’s religious experiences in eighteenth and nineteenth-century New England.
Jaimie’s dissertation, “Tried as by Fire: Free African American Women’s Abolitionist Theologies, 1789-1880,” is an intellectual history of free(d) New England Black women who deployed Evangelical Christian theology to advance proto-Black feminist and abolitionist politics. Jaimie is an Assistant Professor in the Ethnic Studies and Gender Studies Divisions of the School for Cultural and Social Transformation at the University of Utah.