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There are 3 comments on To Do Today: Explore the Historic Longfellow House

    1. The house was built for John Vassall, a young man who had inherited great wealth from a Jamaican slave-labor plantation. He married and raised his family in the house until 1774, when the Revolutionary turmoil made him move into Boston. The Vassalls then settled in England.

      The house was unoccupied, except by a family enslaved to the Vassalls, when the Revolutionary War began. The Massachusetts Provincial Government therefore took control of it and soon made it available to Gen. George Washington. Later during the war Massachusetts formally confiscated the property and sold it to the highest bidder.

      One outcome of those legal moves is that the enslaved family that had lived there, who had taken the surname Vassall, petitioned the Massachusetts government for a pension, arguing that since the state had taken the property it also assumed the responsibility to provide for the people legally attached to that property in their old age. Massachusetts granted Tony and then his widow Cuba Vassall small pensions. They owned some land nearby in Cambridge, which became the nucleus of an early African-American community in town.

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