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Stratford African American history museum seeks new location

A Tuskegee Airmen exhibit is one of the presentations on display at the Ruby and Calvin Fletcher African American History Museum in Stratford.
Eddy Martinez
Connecticut Public
A Tuskegee Airmen exhibit is one of the presentations on display at the Ruby and Calvin Fletcher African American History Museum in Stratford.

The Ruby & Calvin Fletcher African American History Museum, located inside a cape-style house near Stratford’s downtown, is looking to move into a bigger location.

The owner is looking to get state help to finance the move, to the tune of $2.4 million according to Democratic State Rep. Joe Gresko.

“There's nothing definite yet. But there's state funding pending that would help them move that museum,” Gresko said.

The museum needs the space because it's getting more visitors, according to museum owner and director Jeffrey Fletcher.

The museum features several rooms showcasing a mix of artifacts and reproductions of everyday items connected to the histories of African Americans.

Gresko said he’s eying the support of Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz to get state funding to help the museum secure a larger location.

More people are drawn to the history compared to when it was first founded in 2021, Fletcher said.

“To this date, we have tripled our traffic through the museum,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher wants to move to the Sterling Homestead around the corner on Main Street.

Gresko plans to advocate for the funding during this year’s legislative session. Bysiewicz visited the museum in mid-February in honor of African American History Month.

When contacted by Connecticut Public, Bysiewicz’s press office did not confirm if she would advocate for any funding. But she praised the museum in a statement after the visit.

“This exhibit serves as an opportunity to begin honest conversations about a rich and strong history which has historically been overlooked,” Bysiewicz said.

Emma Brooks stepped out of the museum alongside Gresko. She was the first Black woman to serve on the town council, in 2007. The museum exhibited injustices but also triumphs and firsts, from military service to music.

Brookstook office when police and community tensions were high and said she wants people to learn.

“Let's open doors and let's continue educating,” Brooks said. “And let's continue making positive progress.”

The museum’s exhibits, ranging from poll tax receipts charging African Americans for the right to vote, to chains used during slavery, are stark reminders of the inhumanity of slavery and later institutional racism.

Fletcher also displayed his parents' vinyl records of African American musicians who, by the 1960s, had already pioneered musical genres that continue to influence American music and popular culture.

Fletcher wants people to understand the museum’s mission isn’t to make people feel guilty, but to educate them about American history.

“We try to encourage folks that this information is not going to hurt you,” Fletcher said.

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