Who was Darby Vassall?
This project builds on the work of dedicated individuals, organizations, and institutions who have thoughtfully researched and shared information about Darby Vassall’s life. Below are a few free educational resources, in a variety of formats, where you can learn more about him:
"Harvard & the Legacy of Slavery: Virtual Tour Experience"︎︎︎
Christ Church is the second stop on this virtual tour (2022). Access it via the web or iOS and Android apps to see images of the church and tomb, and listen to or read about a few notable moments from Darby Vassall’s life, some of Christ Church’s wealthy parishioners who profited from slavery (the Vassall and Royall families), and social and financial connections to Harvard (a neighboring institution).
"We Claim/Reclaim Space"︎︎︎
This online exhibit, created by the Museum of African American History and the Presidential Initiative on Harvard & the Legacy of Slavery (2022), “examines the lives, work, and legacies of early Black and abolitionist communities in Boston and Cambridge as they established and recorded their history, memory, and activism.” Learn about the remarkable lives and impact of Darby Vassall and his family members through this illustrative, dynamic, and accessible online resource.
George Washington's Headquarters and Home - Cambridge, Massachusetts︎︎︎
This detailed ~600-page report by J. L. Bell (2012) looks at General George Washington’s activities at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, during the Siege of Boston. This includes the transformation of John Vassall’s former house into Washington’s Cambridge headquarters (now known as the Longfellow House-Washington's Headquarters National Historic Site). Two sections, in particular, focus on the lives of Anthony (Tony) and Cuba Vassall and their children (including Darby).
“2.1 Anthony and Cuba Vassall and Their Family,” p. 31-37
“2.2 Darby Vassall: Former Slave,” p. 38-41
"Though Dwelling in a Land of Freedom"︎︎︎
Also composed by the Longfellow House, this short summary pulls from many of the details included in the report above – a helpful resource for getting an overall picture before exploring in further detail.
Notes on Colonel Henry Vassall (1721-1769): His Wife Penelope Royall, His House at Cambridge, and His Slaves Tony & Darby︎︎︎
Samuel Francis Batchelder, a Christ Church parishioner, wrote this book in 1917. It has served as a source for many researchers. The language in this text is a product of its time – as described in the aforementioned report by J. L. Bell, “Batchelder’s interpretation was hampered, however, by his period’s lack of knowledge of African culture and lack of respect for African-Americans” (p. 31-32).
Hear from some of Darby Vassall’s living descendants:
"The Descendants of Darby Vassall on the Legacy of Slavery and Freedom"︎︎︎
Dennis and Egypt Lloyd share their family story and research process, as well as their ongoing education and activism efforts with the Slave Legacy History Coalition, in this virtual program presented by the Boston Public Library (April 2022).
"Descendants and Advocates Seek Clarity in Harvard’s Legacy of Slavery Pledge"︎︎︎
The Harvard Crimson published an article (May 2022) in which members of the Lloyd family respond to the 2022 Harvard & the Legacy of Slavery report.
“How elite views cultivated in Harvard’s early days fed ideas about school segregation”︎︎︎
In this article from The Emancipator (May 2022), Stacy Wolff reflects on Harvard’s report, drawing connections between the past and present state of education in Massachusetts.
"Slavery descendant reacts to Harvard report"︎︎︎
Roberta Wolff-Platt also responds to the report and shares a bit of her family’s story in this video from the Associated Press (May 2022).
“As Harvard Makes Amends for Its Ties to Slavery, Descendants Ask, What Is Owed?”︎︎︎
This story from The New York Times (September 2022) follows Roberta Wolff-Platt and her son John R. Platt Jr. as they retrace the steps of their ancestors in Cambridge and Beacon Hill.