Good Deeds: Norfolk County Registry of Deeds Celebrates Black History Month

       Black History Month commemorates the contributions made by African Americans to our country and to the fabric of what makes up our country. Let us be proud and take note of all noted contributions, knowing that people from our communities here in Norfolk County have contributed to that history.

       As Black History Month is celebrated, let us be aware of connections to Norfolk County. Booker T. Washington was born into slavery in 1856. He was an educator, author, and orator who, during his lifetime, was one of the prominent voices for African Americans in the United States. Booker T. Washington established the Tuskegee Institute, a school of higher learning for African Americans located in Alabama. He called for progress through education and entrepreneurship. Booker T. Washington’s connection to Norfolk County was that he vacationed for several summers at the residence owned by William H. Baldwin, Jr., in South Weymouth at the intersection of Main Street and Columbian Street.

       As part of the 225th Anniversary Commemoration of Norfolk County in 2018, the Registry of Deeds chose another notable African American, Audie Cornish, who hails from the Norfolk County community of Randolph, to be in its Notable Land Records book. Audie Cornish was born in Randolph in 1979. She graduated from Randolph High School and attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Audie Cornish went on to become a journalist for the Associated Press and later a reporter for Boston public radio station WBUR. In 2005, she shared first prize in the National Awards for Education Writing for a report entitled “Reading, Writing, and Race.” Ms. Cornish became a reporter for National Public Radio, later becoming a host and news chair.

       William Maurice “Mo” Cowan lived in the Norfolk County town of Stoughton.  He was appointed to serve as the United States Senator for the State of Massachusetts on February 1, 2013.  He served along with U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) making it the first time that two African Americans served simultaneously in the United States Senate.  Prior to his appointment, Senator Cowan earned a law degree at Northeastern University and joined the prestigious law firm of Mintz Levin, where he later became a partner. Mr. Cowan left the law firm to become counsel to Governor Deval Patrick.

       Speaking of former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, an African American who was elected as Governor of Massachusetts in 2006, He served two terms as Governor. Did you know he lived in the Norfolk County town of Milton?

       Florida Ruffin Ridley was an African American civil rights activist, suffragist, teacher, writer, and editor born in 1861. She was one of the first black public schoolteachers in Boston and edited the Women’s Era, the country’s first newspaper established by and for African American women. Florida Ruffin Ridley lived in the Norfolk County town of Brookline, where in 1896 she was one of the town’s first African American homeowners. In September 2020, the Florida Ruffin Ridley School in Brookline was renamed in her honor.

       The Norfolk Registry of Deeds building is located in Dedham.  This Norfolk County community recently honored the life of William B. Gould (1837-1923) by renaming the East Dedham Passive Park in his honor. William B. Gould was born into slavery in North Carolina. He escaped slavery in 1862 by boat during the Civil War.  Mr. Gould served for the Union for the rest of the Civil War in the Navy, chasing Confederate vessels. After the Civil War ended, this Civil War Navy Veteran was a distinguished member of the Dedham Community.

       Henry W. Diggs was a lifelong resident of my hometown of Norwood from 1906 to 2003.  He and his relatives were the first African Americans to settle in Norwood. After graduating from Norwood High School in 1924, Mr. Diggs worked for the Norwood Press. He would later serve as a radio repairman for the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II. Henry Diggs was active in town government, having served on the Norwood School Committee, Town Meeting, and the Blue Hills Regional High School Committee. Mr. Diggs, in a high school graduation address, urged graduates to “build a bridge” to one another so that “walls of suspicion, fear, prejudice, and hate will disappear.”

       Sam Jones was a clutch basketball scorer who won 10 Championships with the Boston Celtics during their dynasty in the late 1950s and 1960s. Mr. Jones died recently at the age of 88. Sam Jones, who played for the Boston Celtics, wore the number 24, which was retired by the Celtics in 1969, while he was still an active player. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1984, having played all 12 of his NBA seasons with the Boston Celtics. Sam Jones owned a home with his wife Gladys in the Norfolk County community of Sharon while he was playing for the Boston Celtics.

       We wish to honor the contributions that African Americans have made throughout history and here in Norfolk County while also recognizing that the fight for equality and justice continues.

The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds will be closed on Thursday, July 4th in celebration of Independence Day. We are open Friday, July 5th.

The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds is closed Today, July 4th in celebration of Independence Day. We are open Friday, July 5th.