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by Steve Strimer
By 1850, the small village of Florence (then Bensonville), counted among its population a higher percentage of African Americans than nearby Springfield or even other strongly abolitionist Massachusetts communities in New Bedford and Boston. Many members of this significant if short-lived historical community were self-emancipated former slaves. Others like Sojourner Truth and David Ruggles were among the nation's leading black activists in the struggle to end slavery.
Recent scholarship has helped us understand the role of the Northampton Association of Education and Industry (NAEI), a progressive "utopian" community that lasted from April 1842 to November 1846 and the people who were a part of this community.