Door County Historical Society Shares the Story of County’s First African American Citizen

The Door County Historical Society’s yesteryear presentations continue as Society member Marlene Allen will share the story of Door County’s first black citizen, Peter Custis. The program will be held on Sunday, August 21 at 2 pm in the Collins Learning Center.

“The first black to settle in Door County was Peter Custis, a former slave,” cites Allen in her two years of research. “Peter Custis was born into slavery in 1842 on a Virginia plantation, served in the Civil War, was a quarry worker, a husband, father, a Friends Church member, and a City of Sturgeon Bay employee.”

Marlene tells the story of the time when she was conducting research, an interviewee told her that in the late 1920s Peter was invited to the West Side High School to talk to the children about slavery. Not one dry eye remained as Peter recalled his boyhood and his mother being sold to another plantation. The class was so moved by his story that he continued and the children asked questions for two class periods!

Marlene Allen will tell you that she loves history. As a former Society Board of Director, Peninsula (the Society’s magazine) editor, and frequent contributor this is quite evident. She became interested in the story of Peter Custis, when her mother-in-law, Alice Green, came for a visit along with a box of memorabilia. A single photograph of Peter Custis at the Stone Quarry sparked her curiosity, and prompted her to write this story several years later. In her role as a Board Member, Marlene also wrote the Communities of Door County, used for teaching local history to Door County children.

The program will be held on Sunday, August 21, at 2 pm in the Collins Center, at 2041 Michigan Street in Sturgeon Bay, adjacent to the Society’s Heritage Village. This program will use the common vernacular of the time; please let it serve as a reminder to always be respectful of others. This program does not have an admission fee, but a free will offering will be taken to support the Heritage Village at Big Creek. The Heritage Village is open for tours prior to the presentation at 1 pm; adult Village admission is $5. For further information, contact the Door County Historical Society at (920) 421-2332 or email [email protected].


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