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How Black Americans have shaped Connecticut history

This hour, we’re celebrating the 158th anniversary of Juneteenth with a look back at how Black Americans have helped shape Connecticut History.

Maisa Tisdale has dedicated much of her career to uncovering the rich history of a planned neighborhood for Black and Indigenous Americans in Bridgeport in the 1800s. When she came on the show two years ago, she shared her work as the president and CEO of the Mary and Eliza Freeman Center for History and Community and her efforts to renovate the historic Bridgeport homes of the Freeman sisters. The National Park Service recently awarded the Freeman Center a $750,000 grant as part of the Historic Preservation Fund’s African American Civil Rights Grant Program.

The 29th Infantry was a Black Civil War volunteer regiment in Connecticut. Private Orrin Benjamin Hawley was a member of that infantry as discovered by his great-great-grandson Charles “Ben” Hawley. Ben shares what he learned about his ancestors and how he’s doing his part to educate younger generations on their contributions.

Did you know that in 1831, New Haven had the opportunity to be the home of the first HBCU in the Northeast? We revisit our conversation with Dr. Jelani M. Favors about the history of HBCUs and how they disrupted the notions of leadership and excellence to elevate Black communities.

Looking for ways to celebrate Juneteenth? Find a list of events happening across Connecticut here.


To learn more about New Haven’s 1831 failed HBCU proposal, listen to “A People’s History of Dixwell” walking tour, voiced by Metropolitan Business Academy students in New Haven.

This episode was produced with support from: Kevin Chang Barnum, Catie Talarski, Wayne Edwards, Meg Dalton, James Szkobel-Wolff, Zshekinah Collier, Daniela Luna and Meg Fitzgerald. Excerpts from our conversation with Ben Hawley originally aired on November 11, 2020. Excerpts from our conversation with Dr. Jelani Favors aired on August 4, 2021.

Disrupted is available as a podcast on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Subscribe and never miss an episode.

Catie Talarski is Senior Director of Storytelling and Radio Programming at Connecticut Public.
Meg Dalton is the deputy director of storytelling for Connecticut Public. She previously worked for The Takeaway from WNYC, in collaboration with GBH and PRX, and Mobituaries with Mo Rocca. She's also reported and edited for the Columbia Journalism Review, PBS NewsHour, Slate, MediaShift, Hearst Connecticut newspapers, and more. Her audio work has appeared on ‎WNYC, WSHU, Marketplace, WBAI, and NPR. She earned her master's degree from Columbia Journalism School in 2017, where she specialized in audio storytelling and narrative writing, and has taught audio storytelling at Columbia Journalism School, UnionDocs, and public libraries.
Dr. Khalilah L. Brown-Dean is an award-winning scholar at Quinnipiac University, author, and host of 'Disrupted' on Connecticut Public.
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