Don’t Take Our Word For It!


By Elizabeth Normen

There is perhaps nothing more powerful than personal testimony, and so, in this issue, we’re featuring Connecticans’ own words.

(c) Connecticut Explored Inc. Winter 2021-2022

I’ve come to appreciate voices from the past, especially those of people who are not well represented in traditional histories. I value the perspective, which often provides another side to the story. The unmediated, uninterpreted message helps me better understand the past. But personal narrative can be tricky. It is a product of its time and place and must be read with that in mind.

For this issue, we asked our authors to select an extended quote from a diary, letter, or memoir and to provide an introduction. In at least two cases, the subject is so close to the author that the story is a personal narrative within a personal narrative. They are rare windows into how a past person’s life has affected the present-day author. In particular, see Regina Mason’s “Rediscovering William Grimes,” page 20, and Phyllip Thomas’s “William Apes in His Own Words,” page 34. We are honored to have these important stories in our pages.

Longtime readers of CT Explored will know that Venture Smith’s narrative published in 1798 has been of particular interest to me, resulting in CT Explored’s publication in 2019 of Venture Smith’s Colonial Connecticut for grades 5 – 8. Smith has a great deal to teach children about the founding of Connecticut. You’ll find an excerpt from Smith’s narrative on page 40.

We’re excited that Venture Smith’s Colonial Connecticut is being used this school year in West Hartford’s entire fifth grade, and in Naugatuck, Monroe, Waterford, New Canaan, East Haddam, a number of private schools including schools in New Haven and Stamford—and by a 7th grade teacher in Pennsylvania who has Connecticut ties. We’re also collaborating with the Witness Stones Project in a number of towns to incorporate Venture Smith’s Colonial Connecticut into its program in which students research enslaved people in their town.

It is an understatement to say that schools have faced huge challenges during the last two years, so we applaud the districts that have adopted Venture Smith’s story despite those challenges. This fall we’re introducing read-along videos of Venture Smith’s Colonial Connecticut read by Dr. Benjamin Foster, retired educator, Central Connecticut State University adjunct professor, and convener for the Institute for Cross-Cultural Awareness and Transformative Education. He wrote “The Reverend Richard A. G. Foster’s Unheralded Sojourn in New Haven,” Summer 2021. This project was supported by a donor-advised fund at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.

In Memoriam

We are saddened to report that Dr. Charles Leach, author of “Noah Porter and Spotted Fever” in this issue, page 38, passed away shortly after submitting his story. Dedicated to getting the story just right, he worked on it even as he entered hospice. We thank his daughter Nancy Leach and wife Joan Leach, for their assistance with getting the story to press in the most difficult of times for them. Dr. Leach will be missed by us and by many in the Farmington community.

Friends of Connecticut Explored

Please make a gift to the Friends of Connecticut Explored. Friends make gifts above and beyond their membership-subscription dues. Gifts of $100 or more will be listed in the Spring 2022 issue. Last year many Friends made gifts of $180 or more in honor of our 18th anniversary, and we hope you will consider $190 this year for our 19th year!

And consider a gift subscription this holiday season. We’re offering our bonus 6 issues for the price of 4 offer through December 31 with coupon code HOLIDAY 21!

We hope 2022 brings you peace and good health. Happy New Year!


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