More than 200 years ago, a free African American named Thomas Frazer settled at what is now a picnic area in the Schoodic section of Acadia National Park. He fished, farmed and operated a salt works, and was the first non-Native American resident of the area.
It’s a little-known aspect of black history in Acadia and surrounding communities, along with the rarely told stories of the Bar Harbor visits by NAACP founder W.E.B. DuBois and black educator Booker T. Washington in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Frazer’s story is briefly shared on a relatively new wayside exhibit at the Frazer Point Picnic Area.
While the National Park Service marks African American History Month every February by commemorating the civil rights struggles, it’s barely scratching the surface in relating other aspects of black history in Acadia and other national parks.
“Tell the full story,” said Audrey Peterman, an advocate of diversity in national parks, who has visited Acadia several times and had never heard about Frazer until contacted by Acadia on My Mind, and who only learned recently of DuBois’s visit to Bar Harbor.
“If you’re going to reach out to black people and brown people, you’re not going to reach them with the Rockefeller story…,” said Peterman, who blogs about diversity and parks for Huffington Post. “You reach them with the Thomas Frazer story, the W.E.B. DuBois story.”
“It would be nice if the park could do more,” agreed Allen K. Workman, who included Frazer’s story in his 2014 book, “Schoodic Point: History on the Edge of Acadia National Park.” (NOTE: See sidebar about Amazon.com links)
But he said he didn’t fault the park for focusing more on rich Rusticators who gave land for the park, than on Frazer, the history of quarrying and Italian immigrants to the area, or other lesser known aspects of the past. “Their resources are spread pretty thin.” Continue reading