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…

January 12: Lifelong Civil Rights Champion Mary Townsend Seymour

  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: 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 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 17: The Nation’s First Triumphal Arch

  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 –…

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 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…