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Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Rock Point School Removes Portrait of Bishop Who Supported Slavery

Posted By on Wed, May 26, 2021 at 7:39 PM

Bishop Shannon MacVean-Brown speaking with students in front of the portrait of John Henry Hopkins that has been removed - COURTESY OF ROCK POINT SCHOOL
  • Courtesy of Rock Point School
  • Bishop Shannon MacVean-Brown speaking with students in front of the portrait of John Henry Hopkins that has been removed
Rock Point School, a small independent day and boarding high school located on Burlington property owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont, is reckoning with the racism of one of the church’s former leaders. Last week, students and faculty removed a large portrait of John Henry Hopkins, who in 1832 became the first Episcopal Bishop of Vermont, from the school's front hall because of his writings defending slavery.

Hopkins’ son built the school building in the late 1800s as a tribute to his father. It's on a large scenic parcel that includes Lake Champlain shoreline.

In 1861, the elder Hopkins penned A Scriptural, Ecclesiastical and Historical View of Slavery, a pamphlet in which he criticized abolitionists and argued that slavery was not a sin.

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Thursday, March 25, 2021

Vermont Panel Formed to Plan Semiquincentennial Celebrations

Posted By on Thu, Mar 25, 2021 at 10:40 AM

  • Courtesy of Hubbardton Battlefield State Historic Site ©️ Seven Days
  • A Battle of Hubbardton reenactment
It’s never too early to start planning for a semiquincentennial.

That would be July 4, 2026 — the 250th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Gov. Phil Scott's administration has included $25,000 in its budget to put together a 15-member commission to plan events around that date.

Finalized this week, the commission includes Susan McClure, the executive director of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, and Jim Lockridge, executive director of the Big Heavy World music nonprofit in Burlington.

Also on the commission is Jonah Spivak, who is hoping to raise the profile of the upcoming 250th anniversary of Bennington Battle Day on August 16, 2027.

Although Vermont didn’t become a state until 1791, there was a lot of energy expended in 1776 in what was then a part of New Hampshire and New York to fight the British on Lake Champlain. Among other notable clashes was the Battle of Valcour Island, where the Americans suffered heavy casualties to the British in one of the first naval battles of the American Revolution.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Fire Destroys Historic Methodist Church in Middlesex

Posted By and on Wed, Feb 24, 2021 at 2:22 PM

Firefighters by the smoking ruins of the church - JEFF BARON ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Jeff Baron ©️ Seven Days
  • Firefighters by the smoking ruins of the church
A fire swept through the historic Middlesex United Methodist Church on Wednesday morning, destroying a picturesque house of worship that was more than a century old.

The flames spread quickly through the wooden structure, according to Waterbury Fire Chief Gary Dillon, whose department was one of several that responded. Around noontime, the bell tower collapsed.

Sharon Merchant was there to see it.

"I've been going there since I was born, and I'm 60 years old," she said. "I was baptized there, married there, buried my father there, the whole shebang. I talked to my 93-year-old mother today, and she's like, 'I'm supposed to be buried there.'"

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Friday, May 3, 2019

Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award to Be Renamed

Posted By on Fri, May 3, 2019 at 6:29 PM

Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  • Dorothy Canfield Fisher
The Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award will be renamed next year in response to critics who said the author's legacy is tainted by ties to the Vermont eugenics movement in the 1920s and '30s.

Vermont State Librarian Jason Broughton made the decision, which was announced Friday at the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award Conference in Barre. 

Vermont children will be asked to help choose a new name, Broughton told Seven Days in a telephone interview after the conference. Vermont Public Radio first reported news of the renaming.

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Sunday, February 10, 2019

UVM's Kake Walk Featured Blackface Performers for Decades

Posted By on Sun, Feb 10, 2019 at 10:51 PM

  • University of Vermont Special Collections
  • Kake Walk competitors
Updated February 12, 2019

When “Meet the Press” needed a guest to counter Alabama governor George Wallace’s segregationist views in 1964, the NBC show called on a progressive leader from Vermont. The late governor Phil Hoff delivered, supporting the new Civil Rights Act “while projecting Vermont’s self-image as a racially enlightened society,” according to the 2011 biography Philip Hoff: How Red Turned Blue in the Green Mountain State.

Yet the governor also appeared more than once before thousands of people gathered at the University of Vermont to watch a popular annual blackface show called “A-Walkin-’Fo-De-Kake,” or Kake Walk. The event was so significant — and accepted — that local and state elected officials handed out trophies and cake to the fraternity brothers who performed best.

The 1963 Kake Walk program listed Hoff, lieutenant governor Ralph Foote, Burlington mayor Robert Bing and UVM president John Fey among the dignitaries scheduled to present awards.

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Library Board Pushes to Rename Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award

Posted By on Thu, Jan 11, 2018 at 1:03 PM

Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  • Dorothy Canfield Fisher
The Vermont Library Board is recommending that state librarian Scott Murphy remove author Dorothy Canfield Fisher's name from a children's book award created in her honor long ago.

The board voted 7-0 Tuesday on the recommendation after board president Bruce Post cited concerns including Fisher's association with the eugenics movement, which pushed for "better breeding."

"I felt honor bound to bring up this subject of eugenics," Post told Seven Days Thursday.

Murphy has not taken action in response to the vote. He did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday.

The board has been discussing the matter since April.  Fisher's defenders say the famed author, who died in 1958, stood up for prison reform, adult education and war relief. They say she is being judged unfairly over a minor association with the now-vilified eugenics movement.

Meanwhile, critics contend that she stereotyped Native Americans and French Canadians in her work and quietly endorsed the "better breeding" goals of eugenics.

Fisher was a member of the Vermont Commission on Country Life, an outgrowth of the Vermont Eugenics Survey directed by University of Vermont professor Henry Perkins in the 1920s and early 1930s.

The survey championed Vermont's original Anglo-Protestant "seedbed" and targeted French Canadians, Native Americans and "gypsy" families in pedigree studies that were designed to identify "degenerate" and "feeble-minded" Vermont residents.

The Library Board passed a resolution Tuesday that urged the state librarian to rename the award in a way that recognizes and encourages authors of children's literature, especially those with a Vermont connection.

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Monday, October 9, 2017

Burlington Activist Takes Aim at 'White Supremacist' Mural

Posted By on Mon, Oct 9, 2017 at 7:09 PM

The graffiti - SADIE WILLIAMS
  • Sadie Williams
  • The graffiti
Updated on October 11, 2017.

A Burlington activist said he used graffiti Monday to make a political statement about a mural off Church Street.

Albert Petrarca, who describes himself as a member of the Off the Wall coalition, said in a press release that he and other members of the group defaced an identification plaque that accompanies the “Everyone Loves a Parade!” mural downtown. Petrarca described the public art, which is 124 feet by 16 feet, as a “white supremacist symbol” that obliterates “First Nation peoples’ lives and history.”

The goal? “To reset the debate on why an undeniably racist piece of ‘art’ and ‘history’ occupies our town square,” wrote Petrarca, an activist who is outspoken on a variety of Burlington issues.

“Colorful and hyperrealistic,” Seven Days reported in 2012, “the mural unspools an eclectic cast of major and minor Vermont celebrities.” It’s located on the side of a building that houses Banana Republic along the pedestrian-only Leahy Way, which leads to the Marketplace parking garage. And yes, for those wondering, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is also depicted in the mural.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Library Board Delays Decision on Renaming Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award

Posted By on Tue, Jul 11, 2017 at 7:34 PM

Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  • Dorothy Canfield Fisher
Famed Vermont author Dorothy Canfield Fisher's name will stay on a children's book award — at least for now.

The Vermont Board of Libraries met Tuesday and heard two and a half hours of debate about a request to rename the award. Critics behind the effort say Fisher was associated with the Vermont Eugenics Survey, and that she stereotyped its targets — including French Canadians and French Indians — in her writing.

But after several speakers at the meeting mounted a fierce defense of Fisher, the board delayed making a recommendation on whether to rename the award until its next meeting on October 10. State Librarian Scott Murphy will have the final say.

"I'm not trying to kick the can down the road, I'm trying to figure out a way to deal with this," board chair Bruce Post told Seven Days after the meeting in Berlin.*

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Zephyr Teachout Coming Home to Talk Corruption

Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2015 at 5:39 PM

Zephyr Teachout - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Zephyr Teachout
Hot off a surprisingly strong run for New York governor in which she knocked incumbent Democrat Andrew Cuomo for a loop — and won a place on the TV talk-show circuit — Zephyr Teachout will be back on her home turf to talk politics.

Teachout will discuss her book Corruption in America when she takes the stage Thursday at Vermont Law School. The free event is from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in Chase Community Center at the South Royalton school. (Her father, Peter, teaches constitutional law there; her mother, Mary, is a Vermont Superior Court judge.) She’ll also be signing her book at Barrister’s Book Shop from 3:30-4:30 p.m. that day.

The 43-year-old Teachout, who grew up down the road in Norwich and teaches law at Fordham University, went from relative obscurity to prominence as the bee in Cuomo’s political bonnet during last year’s New York gubernatorial primary.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Jim Jeffords, Vermont Icon With an Independent Streak, Dies at 80

Posted By and on Mon, Aug 18, 2014 at 11:55 AM

Updated at 4:53 p.m.

Former U.S. senator Jim Jeffords, an iconic independent and veteran Vermont politician, died Monday at age 80.

Near the end of his 40-year career in public office, the Rutland Republican stunned the nation in May 2001 when he left his party to become an independent. The move handed control of a closely divided Senate to the Democratic Party for the next 18 months and earned Jeffords a place in political history.

But according to his longtime chief of staff, Susan Boardman Russ, Jeffords’ most important contribution was not his defection from the GOP, but his decades of work fighting for education, the environment, dairy farmers and the disabled.

“That’s his legacy. That’s what mattered to him,” Boardman Russ said. “The publicity he got for switching parties I sometimes wish hadn’t happened because all those incredible things he did over those years got lost.”

Jeffords died Monday morning at the Knollwood Military Retirement Residence in Washington, D.C., where he had lived since the death of his wife, Liz, in 2007, according to former spokeswoman Diane Derby. 

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