Connecticut is rich with Black history and stories of the trailblazing efforts that African American people have contributed to American History. With such abundant history comes many ways to celebrate it, especially during February for Black History Month. Explore the state that spawned Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose abolitionist Uncle Tom’s Cabin helped changed the world, the first boarding school for women of color, the birthplace of a famous abolitionist and more!
Connecticut’s Tributes to Black History
While we dedicate the month of February to celebrate Black History, it can be honored year-round in many historic Connecticut locations and museums.
- Did you know that one of America’s most well-known abolitionists, John Brown was born right in Torrington, Connecticut? Although his house was destroyed in a fire in 1918, the property as well as a granite monument are maintained by the Torrington Historical Society. In 1859 John Brown lead the Harpers Ferry Raid, an effort to commence an armed slave revolt in the South by overtaking a United States arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia – an effort that has been recognized as a foreshadowing of the Civil War. The pikes used by Brown and his men were actually crafted by the Collins Company in Collinsville, Connecticut and one can be seen on display at the Canton Historical Museum.
- Honor the service of Connecticut’s first all-black military regiment with a visit to the 29th Colored Regiment Monument at Criscuolo Park in New Haven. The troop faced racism, discrimination, and lower pay than white regiments. Still, they fought courageously and were even the first infantry units to enter Richmond, Virginia after it was abandoned by the Confederate Army. The monument was dedicated in 2008 and beautifully commemorates the soldiers who contributed so greatly to both African American and American history.
- Seek out the stones from the Witness Stones Project in Guilford or West Hartford. This project aims to honor and recognize the lives of enslaved people through stones that are placed in the location of enslavement and identify the enslaved person.
- Explore the impact of Stowe’s 1852 anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford and engage with collections that belonged to Stowe and her family.
- Did you know that the nation’s first boarding school for young African American women was right in Connecticut? The Prudence Crandall Museum’s efforts for equal education helped affirm attitudes against slavery and ultimately won the founder, Prudence Crandall a spot in the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame in 1995. While the museum is currently under renovation and has not yet reopened, you may soon be able to attend one of the talks which will be offered throughout the state while the museum is closed. Organizations and institutions interested in hosting a talk can contact the museum at email@example.com. The remodeling process will allow for new exhibits and the opportunity to bring forward the voices and stories of the students who attended the academy, offering a fuller picture of the tumultuous seventeen months that the school was open for African American young women.
- Check out all the fascinating Black History landmarks up close and in person by taking a look at the Connecticut Freedom Trail.
African American Arts and Culture Events
- Discover the life story of Frederick Douglass, a leader of the abolitionist movement in the powerful one-man play, “Frederick Douglas: An American Slave” on February 6 in Bridgeport. For deeper, up-close learning, stay after the show for a Q&A with Daniel S. Campagna, Ph.D.; Tenisi Davis; Maureen Hamill; author/historian Christine Kinealy; and Craig Kelly, collector of slave artifacts.
- Appreciate artistry rooted in African American culture at the Visual Literacy Exhibition for Black History Month’s display of featured creatives from the African American community on February 26 in New Haven. Some of these vibrant booths and displays will include handmade jewelry, photography, quilts and wearable accessories, prints, and literature.
- Expand your pallet and experience a delicious potluck lunch event featuring dishes rooted in African American culture. Hosted by the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury on February 27, this celebration of history will dive into the award-winning cookbook, Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking, a text which showcases the true history of African American cooking.
- Experience the artistically-told journey of African American women throughout history in this one-woman musical, “A Journey” put on by the National Association of Social Workers on February 1 in North Haven. This emotional and uplifting show brings the audience through the struggles, reflections, and perseverance of the “African Queen,” the “Slave Woman,” Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, and finally the personal story of the writer and star, Kimberly Wilson.
- Honor Black History Month through music by checking out some of these concerts throughout the state. See Tony Award-winning artist Alicia Hall Moran’s show, a Black History Month celebration on February 16 in Stamford or Junior Mack’s gospel and blues concert in honor of Black History Month on February 12 in Norwich. At the All-American Artistry event on February 1 in New London the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra and will perform Concert Overture No. 2 by composer Florence Price, the first African-American woman to have a composition performed by a major symphony.
- Learn about the origins of African American culture through fine art at the Amistad Center for Art & Culture’s Freedom & Fragility exhibition, which will include art, books and artifacts influenced by people of African descent.
- Celebrate Black History Month with art-making, live performances and tours at Second Saturdays for Families: Black Heritage Month at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art on February 8.
Black History Month Presentations and Events
- Celebrate Black History through the interactive exhibit and legacy showcase at A Legacy Revealed – Beyond the Movement at the Mark Twain House & Museum. This engaging event will highlight the achievements of people of color through advocacy, activism and social action. Listen to live music, taste culturally-inspired hors d’oeuvres, and deepen your knowledge of African American history and culture through music, poetry, and dance.
- Experience artistic expressions from youth as well as a keynote address from the Greater Hartford Alliance of Black Social Workers President, Roxanne Ellis-Derby at the Black History 365 Campaign event on February 4 in Hartford, hosted by the UConn School of Social Work. Through representation, safe spaces, open dialogue and diverse content, this campaign aims to create a culture in which Black History is celebrated year-round, rather than one month of the year.
- Learn more about civil rights through an insightful Black History Month Lecture on February 13 at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain. The lecture will be given by nationally known activist, Breanne Zolfo, who has appeared on Oprah, Ellen, Steve Harvey, CBS and many other talk shows to discuss her work.
- Join nationally recognized leader in restorative justice, Fania Davis for a Black History Month Commencement Dinner on February 1 in Middletown, which will entail positive discussion around the future of justice and its connection to Black History.
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