Sapere aude! Dare to know!
(c) Connecticut Explored Inc., Winter 2022-23
The philosopher Emmanuel Kant claimed this as the motto for the Age of Enlightenment, but it applies to our age as well. Perhaps it is always the case that knowing requires courage, and each generation accepts a new challenge. As our Game Changers have shown, there are still many things to learn about Connecticut’s past, and sometimes it takes a special fortitude both to research and accept the truth about the past.
The Winter 2022-2023 issue is devoted to those who have a special kind of dedication to history: citizen historians. These men and women may not have earned advanced degrees in history or secured paid academic appointments. They generally came to their subjects because of a deep need to understand or uncover some person, event, or answer to a question they could not push aside. Many are self-taught history detectives who overcame their fears of going into strange archives or town halls. Frequently they contended with “gatekeepers” and naysayers who said what they were looking for did not exist. They cultivated relationships with librarians, town clerks, teachers, museums, and preservationists to pursue their subjects. Many became public advocates for their historical findings and projects.
Professional historians owe a great debt to citizen historians, as does the public. Without their work, some documents would never come to light, aspects of the past would remain in darkness, and communities’ sense of their past would stagnate.
In the winter many of us are focused on our plans for the holidays, and that involves celebration. Each of the stories by the citizen historians in this issue gives us cause for celebration. We learn how students in middle and high school pursued hidden histories and created public commemorations; the success of efforts to introduce a new African American/Black and Puerto Rican/Latino Studies course in public schools; and the African, Irish, and Jewish diasporas that transformed the Connecticut landscape. The citizen historians’ work is a gift to our state and our nation.
The Winter issue is a time for CT Explored to look both forward and back. We’re celebrating our 20th year of publication, and we do so by examining the future of Connecticut history.
As the new publisher, I am committed to telling the whole of Connecticut’s history in our magazine in well-written and well-researched narratives. I grew up reading history books and going to museums, and I still love doing those things. Over my 25-year career as a history professor at Central Connecticut State University, I witnessed so many changes in the approach to history, namely those that have made it more accessible and open to all comers. Connecticut Explored and its readers are part of that movement.
We will continue to bring you “one good story after another,” but we’ll never tell a good story at the expense of the truth. That’s why, for our 20th Anniversary, we established the Fund for Excellence in Publishing at ctexplored.org/the-fund-for-excellence-in-publishing/. This fund will ensure that CT Explored is sustainable for the future. Our subscribers and the generosity of our Friends, with the support of our organizational partners, have kept us going for 20 years.
Twenty years ago, the way we dressed, talked about current events, listened to music, watched movies, and cheered our sports teams were all different. So were our museums, our schools’ history and social studies curricula, and our questions about the past. Connecticut Explored has been growing and changing with you. We have expanded statewide from our founding days as the Hartford-centric Hog River Journal. We now employ an education specialist who works with the state and teachers to bring the best history into the classroom. We have a digital presence that is expanding and complementing the print magazine that we all love. Subscription prices have remained affordable, despite inflation, and we continue to provide discounts to seniors and educators. Our Friends’ donations have made all that growth possible.
If you are able to give to the Fund for Excellence in Publishing, you will help guarantee that our state’s stories continue to be told and that we will continue to have the ability to change with the times.
Happy New Year!
Connecticut Explored uncovers the state’s cultural heritage with the aim of revealing connections between our past, present and future. For stories from our back issues visit ctexplored.org.