June 17: The First Black Playwright To “Take a Giant Step” to Broadway

  Award-winning playwright and filmmaker Louis Peterson spent his career creating dramatic stories that explored conflict and relationships especially as they turned around issues of race. He achieved a number of firsts, becoming the first Black playwright to have his work produced on Broadway and one of the first Black Emmy nominees – but before…

June 11: UCONN’s 1st Black Basketball Player

  Harrison “Honey” Fitch, arrived on the University of Connecticut (then Connecticut State College) in the fall of 1932 and he made a solid impression, fast. Fitch, the first Black basketball player for the University of Connecticut (then Connecticut State College) and at the time the only Black student,  had already earned the nickname “Honey” for…

April 26: Sarah Boone Gets a Patent For a Better Way to Iron

  Today in 1892, African American inventor Sarah Boone of New Haven patented an ironing board, which was the precursor to the modern appliance residing in many of our homes today. When Sarah Boon was living in New Haven, the fashion of the time was for women to wear corsets. Since the late-1800s, New Haven…

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…