New England’s People intro
New England would not be what it is without the cultural, racial, and economic diversity of the people who have lived here. Yet not all residents have had the money, time, or connections to get their portraits painted—and thus to show us who they were. This is why most of the portraits we see today depict privileged white people.
Given this reality, the likenesses in this gallery are comparatively wide-ranging, recording not only the powerful but also those who worked for a living or struggled to achieve their goals. This section opens with the unexpected—an imagined portrait of a black man who escaped slavery in the eighteenth century. Historic New England places a high priority on acquiring and highlighting images of people who have traditionally eluded the attention of fine artists.