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Connecticut's African American History

Library of Congress

You may not think of Connecticut as a slave state, but in the mid 1700s, New London County held more slaves than anywhere else in New England. Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison referred to our state as the "Georgia of New England."

This fact is one of many that can unsettle our Yankee sensibilities. Connecticut residents, especially white ones, grow up thinking they were on the right side of abolition, of the civil war, and later, of the civil rights movement. But the history, and the real path for African Americans who live in the state, is much more complicated. 

This hour, we’re talking about the history of African Americans in Connecticut, from our early days of slave trade, to the legacy of racism that remains. Our guests have co-edited a new book that explores this history called African American Connecticut Explored, pulling essays and articles from Connecticut Explored Magazine.

But this story is about more than just this dark history. It’s also about accomplishments and triumphs. As the editors of this book put it, they want to “show the evolution of life for African Americans in the state from a tenuous and dispersed existence to the development of vibrant communities with strong community institutions.”

GUESTS: 

  • Elizabeth Norman, Publisher of Connecticut Explored, the magazine of Connecticut History.
  • Frank Mitchell, Consulting historian at the Amistad Center for Art and Culture
  • Stacey Close, History Professor at Eastern CT State University
  • Katherine Harris, Lecturer at Central Connecticut State University

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Tucker Ives is WNPR's morning news producer.
Catie Talarski is Senior Director of Storytelling and Radio Programming at Connecticut Public.

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