May 9: Radical Abolitionist John Brown Born in Torrington

  On this day in 1800, abolitionist John Brown was born in a humble saltbox house in Torrington, Connecticut. The fourth of eight children, Brown left Torrington at the age of five when his father moved his family to the Western Reserve of Ohio.   As a young man, Brown briefly returned to Connecticut to attend…

February 19: Roger Sherman Baldwin, Governor and Abolitionist

On this day in 1863, in the midst of a bloody Civil War that pitted Americans against each other over questions of slavery and freedom, scores of Connecticans mourned the passing of Roger Sherman Baldwin, one of Connecticut’s most ardent abolitionist lawyers and accomplished politicians. Baldwin was born in 1793 to a well-to-do Connecticut family,…

December 8: “The Learned Blacksmith”

  Elihu Burritt, a self-educated lecturer who was arguably the most famous pacifist of the 19th century, was born in New Britain, Connecticut on this day in 1810.  As the tenth child of a shoemaker, young Elihu (rhymes with “Tell-a-few”) was unable to devote much time to schooling; as a teenager, he apprenticed himself to…

October 18: Abolitionist John Brown Captured at Harper’s Ferry

  Connecticut-born radical abolitionist John Brown was already a nationally polarizing figure by the time he staged his infamous raid on the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia in 1859.  Born in Torrington in 1800, Brown’s adult life was characterized by failed business ventures, repeated moves across the country, and an increasingly fanatical devotion to…

October 16: Ebenezer Bassett, America’s First African-American Diplomat

  On this day in 1833, Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett was born near Litchfield, Connecticut to free black parents who held prominent roles in Connecticut’s free black community.  Bassett’s father was a businessman who had served as one of Connecticut’s Black Governors — an honorary leadership role in the state’s black community — and his…

August 24: Capture of the Slave Ship Amistad

  In early 1839, Portuguese slave traders captured dozens of native Mende Africans from the territory of modern-day Sierra Leone — technically, in violation of several international treaties — and sold them to two Spaniards in the slave markets of Havana, Cuba.  On July 1, while en route to nearby plantations aboard the Spaniards’ schooner…

June 24: Henry Ward Beecher Born in Litchfield

  Henry Ward Beecher, one of the most famous and influential preachers and speakers of 19th century America, was born in Litchfield, Connecticut on this day in 1813.  Henry was one of many literary giants of the extended Beecher family: his father Lyman was also a notable preacher; his sister Harriet found international fame as…