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Mary: Lamson family servant
(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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Economic opportunities remained limited for most African Americans in the decades following the Civil War. Employers preferred to hire native-born whites and immigrants for higher paying industrial jobs. Many believed that blacks were farmers by nature and were thus ill suited to industrial employment. To make matter worse, most trade unions excluded African Americans, effectively shutting them out of the labor movement. These economic and social conditions limited employment opportunities for black men to the most taxing, dangerous and menial positions. Opportunities for black women were still more restricted, confined mainly to domestic service in white households. Mary, the woman in this photograph, was probably employed by the household of Nathaniel Lamson, one of the owners of the Lamson & Goodnow Manufacturing Company. For several decades from the 1860s to the 1890s, members of the Lamson family were sole employers of African-Americans in Shelburne Falls. From census records, we know that they were almost exclusively young women born in the South and used for domestic service.
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