Colonial Comics, New England: 1620 - 1750
Edited by Jason Rodriguez
Colonial Comics is a graphic novel collection of 20 stories focusing on the colonial period from 1620 through 1750 in New England. Stories about Puritans and free thinkers, Pequots and Jewish settlers, female business owners and dedicated school teachers, whales and livestock, slavery and frontiers, and many other aspects of colonial life.
The Stories that Weren't Told
"What is history, but a fable agreed upon?"
Many people don't realize it but history is usually told by those in power or the “winners”. What we don't always realize is that this is a one-sided view of history that ignores many segments of society, even among the victors. Women, children, servants… their stories are rarely told, no matter how important are.
Think of a typical colonist – not one of the famous people you usually learn about in history, but one of the everyday people who helped build the European settlements. Many of these people would have been farmers, traders, or business owners. Search for Internet sites that end in ".org" or ".edu" and that feature information about how average people survived the challenges of life in the colonies.
Now write a character description for the person, as if you were casting this person in a movie about colonial life. Include age, level of education, the job the person did and how the person learned how to do this job, and even the kind of clothing the person would wear. You can sketch the person, or write adjective-filled bullet points for each key characteristic so you can show how your colonist would have lived.
The Red Letter Year
Sometimes critical events in history happened just because of how someone interpreted or misinterpreted language. In the Jamestown colony, 1619 was considered "the red letter year." In this year, Jamestown had elected government, single women from England were coming to the colony in hopes of marrying settlers, and the Dutch traders began bringing captured African men to work.
These African men were supposed to come as indentured servants, meaning that they should have been set free after working in the colony for between seven and ten year. However, because the men had been taken from Africa against their will, and few spoke English, instead of being granted the freedom that they should have been able to earn, they came slaves. Because it was never explained to them that they needed to work just long enough to pay off their passage and because they didn't realize they could demand their freedom when their term of service ended, North America's hideous chapter of slavery began – one that took nearly 250 years to close.
It is very important to make sure that all people involved in any situation understand just what is being communicated and why. Research another event, either global or local, where the conflict arose due to miscommunication or language barriers.
Create a flowchart or chart that shows the process of where the situation started, what went wrong (and why it went wrong), and what the final result was. What could have been done differently to ensure communication was clear and what was the expected outcome?
Compare this map, which shows the areas where some of the people featured in Colonial Comics lived, with this interactive map. This map shows where Native peoples traditionally lived before Europeans started to build permanent settlements in North America.
Looking at these maps, which Native tribes would have been most likely to encounter the first settlers? Research three of these tribes (to start, you can find additional information at this page), and create your own map of tribal lands these people have today, if any.
How does tracing the history of North America’s indigenous people make you feel? Based on the facts you have learned, write a paragraph, a poem, or create a piece of art that expresses your feelings about this side of American history.
Supplemental Videos and Materials
Make Your Own Comic!