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, and all six of their children went to college, and three obtained doctoral degrees. Gary was an All State high school basketball player…

January 26: The Talented — and Quite Regrettable — 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 Woman Pharmacist

  Born in Hartford on January 19, 1886, young Anna Louise James was the eighth of 11 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…

December 3: A “Lighthouse” For Outcasts, Far From the Ocean

  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 60 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: America’s First Published African-American Writer

  Jupiter Hammon, an enslaved man, poet, and devout Christian who became the first published African-American writer, was born today 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 children and was…

October 16: The United States’ First African-American Diplomat

  Today 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 grandfather was…

September 12: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Teenage Summer in Simsbury

  Years before he became an internationally famous orator and civil rights leader, young Martin Luther King, Jr. worked a number of jobs to make ends meet for his family. During the summer of 1944, after he gained early admission to Morehouse College at the age of 15, he journeyed north from Georgia to the…

August 25: The State’s First POW From An Undeclared War Comes Home

  In the late evening hours of August 25, 1953, a motorcade carrying Corporal John H. F. Teal pulled into Hartford’s North End, where a small crowd of family and friends were eagerly gathered to welcome him home. Teal had just been returned to the United States after spending 32 months in a Korean prison…

August 24: U. S. Navy Intercepts “The Long, Low Black Schooner” 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…