SLAVERY IN CONNECTICUT
The State That Slavery Built: An Introduction
Connecticut was a slave state. Does that sound wrong? Does it feel wrong? It shouldn’t. Connecticut has a history to confront as much as any Southern state.
Chapter One: The Plantation Next Door
The most disturbing evidence of Connecticut’s long and profitable complicity in slavery lies hidden in plain sight in the town of Salem, in the fields and woods around an ice cream bar near Routes 11 and 82.
Black Men, Black Masters
The first U.S. Census for Connecticut lists six black men as owners of slaves, notably a New London County man named Prince, who is shown as owning four people.
Concentrated History In Windsor
History enthusiast Ted Anderson of Windsor recently led artist Phil Lohman on a tour of one of the state’s oldest towns, pointing out its connections to slavery. They didn’t need to walk far to see a lot.
Chapter Two: The First Slaves
Out of a swampy thicket, near the blue waters of Long Island Sound, 200 old men, women and children stepped into the bright sunshine and entered a new world.
Chapter Three: The Sins of Our Fathers
In the years during and after the American Revolution, the two most powerful men in Connecticut may have been Jeremiah Wadsworth of Hartford and Roger Sherman of New Haven.
Chapter Four: The Lash and the Loom
Past the heavy glass doors of the world’s most famous jewelry store, two glimmering rings sit waiting to be selected for the proper marriage. One is a diamond-inlaid platinum band selling for $11,700, the other a matching engagement ring priced at $37,900.
Chapter Five: Slavery and The Courant
On April 29, 1765, the Connecticut Courant published its first slave-related ad: Joseph Enos of Union seeks the return of Bristol, his 30-year-old runaway slave.
Saved from a Life in Slavery
Though local history contains many accounts of injustice perpetrated against enslaved black people here, the story of one Hebron family illuminates the better angels of Connecticut’s nature.
Tracking the Truth of the Underground Railroad
A century and a half after its peak years of activity, historians are still struggling to put together a clear and accurate picture of the Underground Railroad in Connecticut.
Chapter Six: Hate Makes a Heroine
On the night of Sept. 9, 1834, Prudence Crandall, her new husband and some of her black female students were inside her school in the village of Canterbury when they heard loud voices outside and then banging on the doors. They heard glass being smashed and windows being ripped from their frames. Then, men invaded the first floor and began to overturn furniture.
`My Latest Work on Moral Reform’
By the late 1850s, Samuel Colt had already become a millionaire by selling his famous revolvers to armies around the world. He had just opened his Coltsville Armory in Hartford’s South Meadows, where his workers churned out 150 guns a day using the latest manufacturing techniques.
`Horse Jockeys’ in the West Indies Trade
In January 1817, the brig Gleaner had the misfortune to leave Saybrook, West Indies-bound with a cargo of horses and other livestock, just as a winter gale hit.
Chapter Seven: The Last Slaves
In a field behind Deep River’s historical society stands a small glass building shaped like a triangle. It looks like a greenhouse, but there is a U.S. patent for it filed by a local man named Ulysses Pratt. This "bleach house," as it was called, was designed not to grow plants but to expose to sunlight, for a period of 30 sunny days, ivory piano keys cut from the tusks of African elephants.
The Skeleton in the Closet
About 70 years ago the great-granddaughter of a Waterbury doctor who practiced in the late 1700s donated a skeleton to the Mattatuck Museum that the doctor apparently had saved as an anatomical specimen. Its bones were labeled and a name, "Larry," was inscribed on its skull.
Chapter Eight: The Debt
James Forman stepped into The Riverside Church in Harlem clutching a cane in one hand and a copy of his "Black Manifesto" in the other. It was May 4, 1969, and the mostly white congregation – 1,500 voices strong – was singing the Sunday service’s opening hymn, "When Morning Gilds the Skies."
In Their Own Words: Excerpts
The following excerpts from documents in state libraries, archives and historical societies help illuminate facets of life in Connecticut under slavery, and during its abolition.
Resources To Find More on Slavery In Connecticut
A listing of recommended books, films, websites and places to visit in Connecticut to learn more about the state’s historical involvement with slavery.