ABSTRACT

Maria Beaumont from St. Croix entered the Moravian Boarding School for Girls in Bethlehem in 1787 and later became a music teacher at the school. A little-known 1858 memoir by Charlotte Mortimer alleges that Beaumont was the daughter of a planter and his slave, and that her life was tragically shortened when one of her music students publicly attacked her for her race. Investigations into family papers, recent scholarship about St. Croix, school records, and Beaumont's own memoir uncover the story of Beaumont's life. Her history highlights a web of interconnections that united the Caribbean world of plantation wealth, the elites of the northern seaboard, and the Bethlehem school; it also dramatizes the gulf between the school's increasingly fashionable status and the “marginal” students that represented its communal and egalitarian legacy. Maria's story introduces us to a remarkable woman of color, and enables a significantly fuller view of the evolving life of the school.

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