Denise Dennis, a nationally renowned historian, author and descendant of free African American Prince Perkins, who died in the historic Battle of Wyoming and is buried in Susquehanna County, will be honored at the 20th Annual Diversity Institute Dinner at Misericordia University on Feb. 9.
Dennis is president of The Dennis Farm Charitable Land Trust which was created in 2001 to preserve a rare historic and cultural resource in the Endless Mountains of Susquehanna County.
The 153-acre Dennis Farm was originally settled by the family of Prince Perkins – free African Americans who emigrated to Northeastern Pennsylvania from Connecticut in 1793 with the original wave of settlement into the region following the American Revolution.
Their descendants – the Perkins Dennis family – have retained ownership of the property since its creation, although it hasn’t been a working farm since the early 20th century.
The continuous and documented ownership of property by African Americans in the northeast represents a little-known and remarkable story in American history.
Dennis is a seventh-generation Pennsylvanian and author of three books, including “Black History for Beginners,’’ and as a journalist has written articles that have appeared in numerous publications like the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Unesco Courier, the publication of the United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization based in Paris.
Dennis is the great-great-great-great granddaughter of Prince Perkins, a free African American who died at the historic Battle of Wyoming in Luzerne County.
The purpose of The Dennis Farm Charitable Land Trust is to develop the farm and land into an educational and cultural site for scholars, researchers, cultural heritage tourists, school groups and others interested in the extraordinary history, according to the trust’s website.
The property contains the Perkins-Dennis Cemetery where family members, including a veteran of the Revolutionary War, and 40 other African Americans, including a veteran of the Civil War, rest.
An elaborate series of stone walls built during the 19th century lines the landscape, which also includes the farmhouse, complex and family books dating back to 1815. Pennsylvania scholars have also identified the historic site as a potential location associated with the Underground Railroad.
The Diversity Institute Dinner begins with cocktails at 5:30 p.m. and dinner at 6:15 in Muth, Huntzinger and Alden Trust Rooms 217-219 of Sandy and Marlene Insalaco Hall. A limited number of tickets are available to the public. Please call the Diversity Institute at 674-6217 to reserve a ticket.
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