By Henry Schwan
Maria Madison raised a glass of wine to a Concord resident who is largely forgotten, but is now the focus of a new exhibit at The Robbins House.
“Welcome home, Ellen, you were lost to history,” Madison said July 28 to a crowd of Robbins House staffers and guests as twilight cast its final shadows on the property, located across the street from the Old North Bridge and Old Manse. Madison is co-founder and president of the board of the Robbins House, and she used a powerful phrase to sum up Ellen’s life – “a 19th century civil rights firebrand.”
Ellen is Ellen Garrison, an African-American descended from slaves who was born in the Robbins House in 1823, when it stood at its original location at the edge of Concord’s Great Meadow. Garrison’s grandfather was Caesar Robbins, a freed slave from Chelmsford who fought in the Revolutionary War, and her father, Jack Garrison, escaped slavery in New Jersey.