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slavery

Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC

Here’s the story that New England tells itself: Racism is a Southern problem.

But our region’s abolitionist past hides a darker history of racism, slavery and segregation. It’s a legacy that lives with us today. 

Grace Murray Stephenson / Austin History Center

This year is the 155th annual Juneteenth Celebration, symbolically marking the freedom of Black people from slavery in this nation. But despite the long history of the day, many white Americans are hearing about it for the first time in the wake of George Floyd’s killing. Connecticut has recognized Juneteenth since 2003, but it is not yet an official state holiday. 

Joe Amon / Connecticut Public

Events across Connecticut Friday marked the commemoration of Juneteenth, the day in 1865 when news of the end of the Civil War reached Texas, marking the true end of chattel slavery in the U.S. -- two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

A runaway slave ad from 1785 in the Connecticut Courant, now the Hartford Courant
Hartford Courant archives / Proquest

Today is Juneteenth, a holiday that marks the day that slavery finally ended in Texas -- two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

We don’t often think of Connecticut as a slave state and often celebrate the role of Connecticut’s abolitionists. Yet American slavery was not just confined to the South.

There were an estimated 5,100 enslaved people who lived and worked right here in Connecticut. 

Renty – an enslaved man whose photograph was commissioned by Harvard professor Louis Agassiz in 1850.
Courtesy of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University

Norwich, CT resident Tamara Lanier believes she is the descendant of two enslaved people—Renty and his daughter, Delia. They were photographed in 1850 for Harvard professor Louis Agassiz, as part of his research to advance the racist theory that Africans had different origins from Europeans. Lanier wants those early photographs, and has sued Harvard for “wrongful seizure, possession and expropriation” of them. 

Renty -- an enslaved man whose photograph was commissioned by Harvard professor Louis Agassiz in 1850.
Courtesy of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University

When Tamara Lanier’s mother died in 2010, the Norwich, Connecticut, resident remembered a promise she made to her: to document who her ancestors were.

Lanier says she grew up hearing her mother’s stories about her great-great-great grandfather, Papa Renty, an African-born enslaved man in South Carolina.

Renty – an enslaved man whose photograph was commissioned by Harvard professor Louis Agassiz in 1850.
Courtesy of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University

 

Norwich, CT resident Tamara Lanier believes she is the descendant of two enslaved people—Renty and his daughter, Delia. They were photographed in 1850 for Harvard professor Louis Agassiz, as part of his research to advance the racist theory that Africans had different origins from Europeans. Lanier wants those early photographs, and has sued Harvard for “wrongful seizure, possession and expropriation” of them. 

Debby Shapiro

Middletown today is known for its vibrant main street and the scenic grounds of Wesleyan University.

But the city began as a trading port on the Connecticut River, and from its founding, much of the wealth that came into that port was tied to the transatlantic slave trade. This hour, we hear about a new UNESCO memorial that has brought recognition to that city’s role in slavery.

We also learn about members of a historic African American family in that city who were at the forefront of fighting slavery. The Bemans were prominent abolitionists and leaders in the Middletown’s free black community in the 19th century. 

Some residents today are hoping to see a new public school bear the name of that family. Are you a Middletown resident? How do you think your city should approach its history?

Debby Shapiro

Middletown today is known for its vibrant main street and the scenic grounds of Wesleyan University.

But the city began as a trading port on the Connecticut River, and from its founding, much of the wealth that came into that port was tied to the transatlantic slave trade. This hour, we hear about a new UNESCO memorial that has brought recognition to that city’s role in slavery.

We also learn about members of a historic African American family in that city who were at the forefront of fighting slavery. The Bemans were prominent abolitionists and leaders in the Middletown’s free black community in the 19th century. 

Some residents today are hoping to see a new public school bear the name of that family. Are you a Middletown resident? How do you think your city should approach its history?

Kimberly Wilson / YouTube

Maya Angelou, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks. These are three of the eight Black women whose experiences are recounted in Kimberly Wilson’s “A JOURNEY: Musical One-Woman Show”.

This hour, Wilson, a Westport, Connecticut resident, joins us to talk about her experience writing and performing the show. 

Taylin Santiago, a New London High School student who identifies as Afro-Latino, testified in front of the Education Committee during a public hearing about H.B. 7082.
Ryan Lindsay / Connecticut Public Radio

Do you remember high school history? The subject has the reputation of being “boring”, thick with names and dates that can be a chore to remember. But this hour we ask: How do the history lessons we learn in school shape the way we see the world around us?

Central Connecticut State University

A tussle over the renaming of a street in New Britain has illuminated the life of a little known, but important Connecticut abolitionist and diplomat.

Mrs. Charles Stephenson (Grace Murray) / Wikimedia Commons

Juneteenth is a holiday that marks the day that slavery finally ended in Texas--two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. This hour, we learn more about Juneteenth and how the holiday came to be commemorated nationwide. The Amistad Center will explain why this day is still relevant today.

Many people think of American slavery as a Southern problem, but there were in fact enslaved people in Connecticut until 1848. We take a look at the history and legacy of slavery right here in Connecticut.

Library of Congress

This hour: As Women's History Month draws to a close, we draw attention to a Connecticut native who was integral in the campaign for civil rights -- Judge Constance Baker Motley.

Coming up, we take an in-depth look at Judge Motley's life and talk about her legacy both inside and outside of the courtroom.

Plus: Suzan-Lori Parks’ Father Comes Home From the Wars Parts 1, 2 & 3 opened at Yale Repertory Theatre earlier this month.

We learn more about the production and find out how the Theatre’s ongoing WILL POWER! initiative is exposing students to the arts. 

Library of Congress

Chances are you’ve never heard of Constance Baker Motley.

Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Thurgood Marshall are all known for their historic work in the Civil Rights Movement, but Motley -- who was right there with them -- isn’t. 

Library of Congress

This hour: As Black History Month draws to a close, we draw attention to a Connecticut native who was integral in the campaign for civil rights -- Judge Constance Baker Motley.

Coming up, we take an in-depth look at Judge Motley's life and talk about her legacy both inside and outside of the courtroom.

Plus: Suzan-Lori Parks’ Father Comes Home From the Wars Parts 1, 2 & 3 opens at Yale Repertory Theatre next month.

We learn more about the production and find out how the Theatre’s ongoing WILL POWER! initiative is exposing students to the arts. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

This hour: "the search for William Grimes."

We talk to author and film producer Regina Mason about her quest to find her great-great-great-grandfather -- a New Haven resident and runaway slave. 

Eli Christman / Creative Commons

The violence in Charlottesville last month over whether or not to remove a statue of Confederate soldier Robert E. Lee rekindled a heated debate that's more about national identity and race than about statues. But, it's easier to fight about statues than begin a long-overdue national discussion over how we remember our collective and complex national past - especially in the context of slavery.

Lucy Nalpathanchil / WNPR

Dakar is the capital of Senegal, and is truly its center. The city continues to grow with more than two million residents. An interesting fact: half of the country’s population is 18 and under. 

GK / Creative Commons

Yale University has reversed course and announced that it will change the name of Calhoun College. This follows protests at the Ivy League campus over names and symbols related to slavery and oppression.

National Portrait Gallery, London

Yale Divinity School has renamed one of its largest classrooms after an escaped slave who attended classes at Yale in the 1830s.

sanjitbakshi / Creative Commons

Earlier this year, members of the United Nations met in New Canaan, Connecticut for a workshop on how countries can fight human trafficking.

Daniela Brighenti / New Haven Independent

Yale University said it is willing to rehire a former dining services worker who smashed a stained-glass window depicting slaves. 

Daniela Brighenti / New Haven Independent

The former Yale University dining hall worker fired for smashing a stained-glass window depicting slaves is asking for his job back.

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Daniela Brighenti / New Haven Independent

Yale University officials have asked the state not to pursue criminal charges against a former worker who destroyed a stained glass window depicting slaves in a cotton field. 

Yale University

Yale University said it will not change the name of Calhoun College. The residential college is named for 19th century alumnus John C. Calhoun, who was an ardent supporter of slavery.

Mike Steele / Creative Commons

In The Slave's Cause, author and scholar Manisha Sinha writes a history of abolition -- a history more complex than the one taught in most American classrooms. This hour, Sinha takes us inside her book for a look at abolition's lesser known past.  

Chris Beckett / Creative Commons

Federal, state, and local authorities have announced the formation of a task force to fight human and child sex trafficking in the state.

GK / Creative Commons

As South Carolina considers removing the Confederate flag flying over the state Capitol, some are questioning why a building at Yale bears the name of one of this country's most passionate advocates for slavery.

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