By Frances Karttunen
Annie Mattie Nahar first appears in 1855 as a ten-year-old in the York Street household of Abraham and Elizabeth Nahar. She was either the daughter of Suriname-born Abraham and Falmouth-born Elizabeth, or she had been placed under their protection by Elizabeth’s brother, the Rev. Charles B. Ray, who was active in the Underground Railroad.
Back in 1845, entrepreneur Abraham Nahar and his seamstress wife Elizabeth had joined 102 other members of Nantucket’s New Guinea community in signing a petition to the Massachusetts legislature seeking relief from segregation of Nantucket’s public schools. The success of the struggle to integrate the island’s schools meant that Annie Mattie was educated along with white and non-white children at the South School on Orange Street. One of her contemporaries recalled that. “To one unacquainted she would, unquestionably, have passed for a white girl, yet she was of African parentage, was true to and dwelt with colored people. She was a young woman of rare character and attractiveness.”