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Unforgotten: Connecticut's Hidden History of Slavery

It’s a history lesson many of us didn’t get in school: Slavery has deep roots in Connecticut and across New England. Enslaved people helped build the foundation of much of this state.

Get to know some of these men, women and children and the lives they lived. Hear from descendants who reflect on their loved ones. And learn from historians, experts and volunteers going on a journey of discovery to uncover this hidden history.

It's part of Unforgotten: Connecticut's Hidden History of Slavery — a special series from Connecticut Public, featuring radio storytelling, in-depth videos, digital stories, pictures, a podcast, a television special and a community conversation.

Chapter 1: A history lesson

Think slavery didn’t happen in the North? Think again. Slavery has deep roots in Connecticut. It started in the 1600s. Meet the people who are helping shed light on this history and why it matters.

Watch, listen and read the story

Chapter 2: 'A family I didn’t know that I had'

A phone call leads to a surprise: A family learns their ancestors were enslaved in Connecticut. This discovery gave them an extended family, as well as “a sense of ownership and a sense of belonging.” It also reshaped their view of patriotism.

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Chapter 3: Keeping Venture’s story alive

Venture Smith’s 18th-century narrative is the earliest published narrative of slavery in the Americas. More people are learning about him in part because his descendants are working to keep his story alive. “The history of enslaved people, it’s out there. It’s just not uncovered.”

Watch, listen and read the story

Chapter 4: A musician’s melodies come back to life

It's a story of mystery and music. An enslaved man’s music was hidden for centuries. Go on a journey to rediscover Sawney Freeman’s music – tucked away in a library – and hear it performed today.

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Chapter 5: Teenagers help carry these stories forward

As Connecticut learns more about its ties to slavery, efforts are underway to ensure the stories live on – through students.

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Send us your feedback

Share your thoughts on the stories in this series via email at unforgotten@ctpublic.org. Learn more about how and why we prepared this series.

Unforgetting – Restoring and Reclaiming Connecticut’s Hidden Histories

A panel of experts talks about efforts to uncover long-ignored stories and recalibrate our understanding of Connecticut’s historical involvement with slavery. This community conversation took place in March 2024 at the Connecticut Museum of Culture and History in Hartford.

Subscribe to the limited series podcast now.

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