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Tuesday, July 18, 2000

Exhibit asks for
historic items of African
Americans in isles

By Leila Fujimori


Deloris Guttman is hoping you have photographs in your family albums showing African Americans from the 1800s.

"Many intermarried with Hawaiians, so their identity is kind of lost," said Guttman of the African American Cultural Center.

Guttman is gathering photographs and artifacts of early black immigrants and their descendants to create a display the center will propose to the Bishop Museum.

"We want to partner with the Bishop Museum to put up an African-American display along with the other ethnic groups," she said.

The earliest black settlers came well before the missionaries' 1821 arrival, said Kathryn Waddell Takara, assistant professor of ethnic studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Some were freed or runaway slaves who came as crewmen on whaling ships, explained Takara.

Although not generally known, Takara said, 70 percent of whalers were black. Some descended from black Portuguese of the Cape Verde Islands off the West African coast.

"This is just another example of how American history has left out blacks," Takara said.

Some jumped ship and served as advisers, entrepreneurs and musicians -- four of whom formed a brass band for King Kamehameha III. Other African Americans acted as interpreters for the monarchy.

Some became small businessmen serving foreigners. They ran boarding houses, saloons and a hospital.

Guttman plans to feature in the display noted blacks in Hawaii history such as Anthony D. Allen, an ex-slave who arrived in 1811 from New York. He married a Hawaiian woman and was granted six acres of land in Waikiki by a high priest.

Allen was quite the entrepreneur, establishing a boardinghouse, bowling alley, saloon and the first hospital for American seamen in Pawaa. He was also a dairyman, farmer and blacksmith.

Allen became so highly respected the monarchy bestowed him with land currently the site of Washington Intermediate School, Takara said.

Another was Betsy Stockton, an ex-slave who accompanied a family with the second group of missionaries here from Connecticut.

Stockton was one of the founders of Lahainaluna School on Maui, probably the first school for commoners, where she taught English, Latin, history and algebra.

Bishop Museum's lack of African-American representation was noticeable to two center volunteers, who were informally told by an employee that no one had come forth with a display, prompting the center to take action.

If the display becomes a reality, its purpose will not only be to educate the public about blacks in Hawaii's history.

"It will also create mutual respect," Guttman said.

To contact the African American Cultural Center, call 528-5037.

E-mail to City Desk

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