May 25: Chester Bowles: Connecticut’s Civil Rights-Era Governor

Chester Bliss Bowles was one of Connecticut’s most accomplished and ambitious politicians of the 20th century.  Born in Massachusetts in 1901, he attended private school in Connecticut and graduated from Yale in 1924.  After college, he worked as a copywriter at an advertising agency in New York City before co-founding his own ad firm which,…

April 4: Hartford Riots After MLK Assassination

On this day in 1968, the streets of Hartford, Connecticut exploded with anger upon hearing the news of 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 — and took out their…

March 13: The New Haven Black Panther Trials

  On this day in 1970, the stage was set for one of the most polarizing trials of the modern Civil Rights era as Bobby Seale, national chairman of the militant black power group Black Panthers, arrived in Connecticut to stand trial for ordering the murder of a New Haven man who had been killed…

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 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…

November 13: Emmeline Pankhurst Delivers “Freedom or Death” Speech in Hartford

  Today in 1913, British suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst delivered her famous “Freedom or Death” speech to a crowd of supporters at the Parsons Theater in Hartford, Connecticut.  The famous activist, well-known to Americans for her aggressive tactics she employed at suffragist rallies in England, was invited to speak by architect Theodate Pope of Farmington, and…

October 28: The Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association Formed

  On this day in 1869, at a meeting in Hartford attended by civil rights luminaries including Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and William Lloyd Garrison, Isabella Beecher Hooker and her husband John formally established the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association. Isabella was born into the famous Beecher clan of Litchfield in 1822.  She and…

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…

October 1: Same-Sex Civil Unions Become Law in Connecticut

  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…