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…

October 7: Thomas Jefferson Opposes Connecticut’s State Church

  One of the central tenets of modern American political doctrine was borne out of a  letter exchange between Connecticut Baptists and an American President that began today in Connecticut history. On October 7, 1801, the Danbury Baptists Association sent an eloquent letter to newly elected President Thomas Jefferson expressing their concerns about Connecticut’s backing…

October 1: Toward a More Perfect Union

  On October 1, 2005, Connecticut became the third state in the union to legally recognize same-sex civil unions. Four years earlier, Vermont became the first state to do so after the Vermont Supreme Court mandated that denying same-sex couples the benefits of marriage violated their state constitution. In 2004, Massachusetts’s Supreme judicial court similarly…

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…

July 29: A Determined Minister’s Swim for Justice

  In 1926, a group of eastern Connecticut investors hoping to capitalize on the state’s new car culture, expanding highway system, and Roaring 20’s prosperity, purchased a large spring-fed wetland in Andover Connecticut. They cleared trees, cut roads, and built the 550 foot-long dam that created beautiful Andover Lake. When completed in 1928, they ran…

May 25: First He Invented the Soap Opera. Then He Entered Politics.

  When Chester Bowles and his friend William Benton founded the Benton and Bowles ad agency in 1929, they had two accounts and 12 thousand dollars. Seven years later – in the midst of the Great Depression – it was the sixth largest ad agency in America, with annual billing of over 10 million dollars….

April 4: Angry Riots Rip Hartford After MLK Assassination

Today in 1968, the streets of Hartford, Connecticut exploded with anger following the assassination of American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee. Dozens of residents in Hartford’s North End took to the streets — most of them young, black men — expressing their frustration and anger by breaking storefront windows, overturning…

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 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…

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…