February 9: Connecticut’s 1st African-American Congressman

Today in 1953, future Congressman Gary A. Franks was born in Waterbury.  The youngest of six children in a family of limited means, his parents put a high value on education. All six of their children went to college, and three obtained doctoral degrees.  Gary was an All State high school basketball player, and went…

January 26: The Provocative Postmaster General

  Today in 1802, Gideon Granger of Suffield took office as the nation’s fourth postmaster general, ushering in a new era for the U.S. postal service — for better and for worse.  A Yale graduate, Granger practiced law in his hometown of Suffield and served in the Connecticut General Assembly beginning in 1792.  Following an…

January 19: Connecticut’s First African-American Female Pharmacist

  Born in Hartford on January 19, 1886, young Anna Louise James was the eighth of eleven children born to Willis James, a former slave who had successfully escaped from a Virginia plantation via the Underground Railroad.  As a child, Anna’s family moved from Hartford to Old Saybrook, where she graduated high school and, as…

January 12: Mary Townsend Seymour, Civil Rights Champion

  Born in Hartford in 1873, lifelong civil rights activist Mary Townsend lost both her parents at the age of 15, and was adopted into the family of local black activist and Civil War veteran Lloyd Seymour.  A few years later, she married one of his sons, Frederick Seymour, and the newlyweds settled in the…

December 3: The Barkhamsted “Lighthouse”

  The Connecticut shoreline is home to many beautiful, historic lighthouses that have steered ships in Long Island Sound to safety for hundreds of years.  One of the state’s most historically significant “lighthouses,” however, is located over sixty miles inland — and refers not to a navigational structure, but to a unique settlement established on…

November 23: Connecticut’s First African-American Civil War Regiment

  In late May of 1863, nearly six months after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation declared that all black men and women in slave-holding Confederate states were free, the Federal government created the Bureau of Colored Troops, effectively authorizing the use of black troops throughout the Union Army. While some Northern states quickly raised their…

October 17: Jupiter Hammon, First Published African-American Writer

  Jupiter Hammon, an enslaved man, poet, and devout Christian who became the first published African-American writer, was born on this day in 1711 on the Lloyd family estate on Long Island.   While little is known about the finer details of Hammon’s life, as a boy, young Jupiter was educated alongside the Lloyd family’s…

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…

September 17: Soldiers & Sailors Arch Dedicated in Hartford

  On September 17, 1886 — the 24th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam — thousands of spectators and Civil War veterans gathered in Hartford to partake in the dedication of the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch in Bushnell Park.  Hartford’s Memorial Arch was the first permanent triumphal arch memorial in the United States, and…

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 27: Prudence Crandall Arrested For Teaching “Little Misses of Color”

  In 1831, Prudence Crandall opened the Canterbury Female Boarding School in Canterbury, Connecticut, in order to provide an education to wealthy daughters of Eastern Connecticut families.  After a successful inaugural year, Crandall received a request from twenty-year-old Sarah Harris, the daughter of a prosperous free African-American farmer and his wife, to attend the boarding…