High School: African American History in Connecticut



Stories from back issues of Connecticut Explored and episodes from our companion podcast Grating the Nutmeg

Audacious Alliances: Mary Townsend Seymour
Summer 2003
Seymour was a founder of the Hartford chapter of the NAACP, and an activist for African American rights in early 20th century Hartford.

World War II – Connecticut’s Own Rosie the Riveter
Fall 2003
Primary source: an iconic image of women welders in New Britain by famous photographer Gordon Parks.

World War I – Parallel Lives: Segregation in World War I
Fall 2003

Civil War – Fighting for Freedom: Joseph O. Cross 
Fall 2003
This primary source letter from soldier Joseph Cross to his wife reveals the experience of an African American soldier from Connecticut fighting in the Civil War.

Actress Gwen Reed: From Fields to Footlights
Summer 2004

A Life’s Work: Excerpts from Life of James Mars, A Slave Born and Sold in Connecticut, Written by Himself
Summer 2004

Monument to the Black Governors
Fall 2004
The story of Connecticut’s colonial-era black leaders.

The Hartford Chapter of the Black Panthers: An interview with Butch Lewis
Fall 2004
See also, The New Haven Black Panther Trials, Winter 2019-2020

re: Collections–Photographer Augustus Washington
Winter 2004/2005

From Talcott to Main Street: Hartford’s First African-American Church
Summer 2005
The church has historically been a pillar of the African American community.

Farmington’s Stops on the Underground Railroad
Fall 2005

Fortune’s Bones
Spring 2007
When an enslaved man named Fortune died in Waterbury, his owner, a doctor, preserved Fortune’s skeleton as a medical specimen. Fortune’s skeleton was displayed at the Mattatuck Museum until a project to understand and honor Fortune’s dignity resulted in more respectful treatment of his remains.

James Pharmacy
Spring 2007
Anna Louise James was the first African American pharmacist in Connecticut. She ran her own pharmacy in Old Saybrook from 1917 to 1967.

Searching for My James and Lane Families
Fall 2019
Journalist Liz Petry explores her family tree, with roots in slavery and branches that include a best-selling novelist and Connecticut’s first African American female pharmacist.

PODCAST: Novelist Ann Petry and Exploring the Family Tree
Liz Petry’s lecture at the Mark Twain House explores her family tree and her family’s connection to the writer Mark Twain.

“Cast down on every side”: The Ill-Fated Campaign to Found an “African College” in New Haven
Summer 2007
Abolitionists and black leaders proposed the first black college in the United States in New Haven in 1831.

My Dad, Jackie McLean
Fall 2008
The story of jazz legend Jackie McLean told by his daughter.

Marian Anderson Studio
Fall 2008
The famed opera singer lived in Danbury. Her studio is on the Connecticut Freedom Trail.

A Family of Reformers: The Middletown Bemans
Winter 2008/2009
An African-American family fights for equal opportunities in ante-bellum Middletown.

The Fastest Men on Two Wheels
Fall 2009

My Summers at Camp Courant. By Chief Charles A. Teale, Sr.
Summer 2010

Site Lines: Black Abolitionists Speak
Spring 2011
Black people had resisted slavery and fought for its abolition even before the formation of the Union in 1776. In Connecticut in 1779, 1780, and 1788 blacks petitioned the Connecticut General Assembly to abolish slavery. Here we feature the words of some of Connecticut’s leading black abolitionists, spoken and written, as they strove to be front and center in all aspects of the struggle for their human rights.

The 29th Regiment Colored Volunteers
Spring 2011
The story of Connecticut’s black Civil War regiment.

The Fisk Jubilee Singers Tour the North
Spring 2011

Women Who Changed the World
Summer 2011
Including a short bio of Novelist Ann Petry

Laboring in the Shade
Summer 2011
Heading north for a summer job in the tobacco fields.

What Would Dr. King Want You to Do?”
Fall 2011
Hartford High School students spring the riots in Hartford after Dr. King was assassinated in 1968.

“I Wanted to Fly”
Fall 2011
Tuskegee Airman Connie Nappier

Ebenezer Bassett’s Historic Journey
Winter 2011/2012
Our first black diplomat serves the first black republic.

The 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Winter 2012-2013

Promise of Freedom: Reflections on the Emancipation Proclamation
Winter 2012-2013

Connecticut’s Response to the Emancipation Proclamation
Winter 2012-2013

Rev. James Pennington: A Voice for Freedom
Winter 2012-2013

Nancy Toney’s Lifetime in Slavery
Winter 2012-2013
Nancy Toney of Windsor was possible the last enslaved person in Connecticut.

Life & Adventures of Venture, a Native of Africa
Winter 2012-2013

PODCAST: Educated for Freedom
State historian Walt Woodward interviews UConn English professor Anna Mae Duane about her amazing book about James McCune Smith and Henry Garnet, two African American boys who met as young students at the New York African Free School on Mulberry Street. Their intertwined lives of antebellum antislavery activism helped define the possibilities for blacks in American Society.

Unburying Hartford’s Native and African Family Histories
Fall 2019
Not only Puritans were buried in Hartford’s first cemetery.
PODCAST: Uncovering African and Native American Lives in 17th & 18th Century Hartford

PODCAST: Department Stores, Hartford’s G. Fox & Co., and the Black Freedom Movement
UMass’s Dr. Traci Parker, with some editorial commentary from Connecticut Historical Society’s Natalie Belanger, talks about what department stores like G. Fox meant to consumers and retail workers alike, and how they become sites of struggle in the civil rights movement.

How Segregation Happened in West Hartford
The Federal Government and Redlining in Connecticut

Summer 2019
PODCAST: The Challenge of Fair Housing in Connecticut’s Suburbs

PODCAST: Norwalk’s Village Creek Ahead of its Time
After World War II, one Connecticut community made a conscious effort to reject racial segregation. The founders of Village Creek in Norwalk created a cooperative neighborhood which promised not to discriminate based on “race, color, creed or politics.”

The Midway Golf Club
Summer 2018
The club for African American golfers and breaking the color line at Keney Park golf course in Hartford.
PODCAST: Breaking Golf’s Color Line in Hartford
Hartford native Gerry Peterson has played golf with President Barack Obama and was inducted into the Black Golf Hall of Fame in 2015. He started as a kid caddie during the Depression and played as a young executive at Aetna Life and Casualty. But what did it take for Peterson to become a member of the whites-only Keney Park Golf Club in 1963?

No Day at the Beach
Summer 2019
Advocating for eliminating racial barriers at Connecticut’s beaches.

“The Wade in of 1964”
Summer 2019
State historian Walt Woodward describes Rev. William Philpot’s campaign to use his beach rights at his cottage on Andover Lake in the 1960s.

Grave Deeds and Abandoned Cemeteries
Summer 2019
Preserving a “Colored Cemetery” in Greenwich.

PODCAST: Hopes and Expectations: Creating a Black Middle Class in Hartford
Historian Barbara Beeching describes the creation of a black middle class in Hartford – not in the 20th century, but back in the 1800s.

PODCAST: Greater Hartford’s West Indian Diaspora
In 2010, Jamaicans became the largest foreign-born population in Connecticut and have the highest percentage of property ownership in Hartford County of any foreign-born group. UConn associate professor Fiona Vernal tells how so many West Indians come to call Connecticut home.

PODCAST: Art, Agency, Legacy: 30 Years of The Amistad Center for Art & Culture
The Amistad Center for Art & Culture in Hartford documents the history and art of people of African descent in America.


There’s more—search more recent issues while we work on adding links to this list!

Four hundred years of the African American experience in Connecticut. Published by CT Explored and Wesleyan University Press, 2014.

Purchase HERE

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