In mid-February, Kay Itoi, Digital Media Coordinator for the U.S. Embassy Tokyo, reached out to the Southampton Historical Museum
seeking permission to use one of the Museum's photos of Pyrrhus Concer
, who was one of the first African Americans to visit Japan, as part of the Embassy's African American History Month social media tribute honoring the past and present contributions and achievements of African Americans.
"For our digital media campaign on African American History Month, we were especially interested in featuring prominent African Americans who have some sort of link with Japan," explained Sascha Udagawa, English editor at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. "Since the main purpose of the U.S. Embassy's social media program is to build connections between the United States and the people of Japan, we were excited to discover the story of Pyrrhus Concer." The first week of Facebook posts celebrated Martin Luther King
, Jr. and the other organizers of the "March on Washington" in 1963. Week two commemorated Maya Angelou, an author, poet, and civil rights activist.
The third week paid tribute to Concer, an ex-slave from Southampton, who was on board the Manhattan, a whale ship captained by Mercator Cooper of Southampton, when it rescued the crews of two shipwrecked Japanese vessels in 1848. "Not only was he [Pyrrhus Concer] one of the first African Americans to visit Japan, but he did so on a humanitarian mission to return the crews of two shipwrecked Japanese vessels to their homeland
," added Udagawa. "He left an inspiring legacy as a former slave who went on to live an adventurous seafaring life and become a prominent and respected member of the community."
Southampton Historical Museum was pleased to play a part in the program. "It's wonderful that Japan has reached out to Southampton about our shared historic personage," shared Tom Edmonds
, Executive Director of Southampton Historical Museums and Research Center. "In the 1980s Tokyo created a monument to Pyrrhus Concer's 1845 visit and quickly came to Southampton to see our version."
"I guess it's now our turn to return the honor," he added.
Southampton Historical Museum is located at 17 Meeting House Lane in Southampton. For more information, call 631-283-2494 or visit www.southamptonhistoricalmuseum.org.
Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com where she focuses on lifestyle, nightlife, and mixology. She grew up in the Hamptons and currently resides in Water Mill. www.hamptons.com