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Middle Passage to New London: A significant stop on the city's Black Heritage Trail

Former City Councilman Curtis K. Goodwin speaking at the UNESCO Site of Memory dedication ceremony in New London.
Nicole Thomas
Former City Councilman Curtis K. Goodwin spearheaded the New London Black Heritage Trail. He spoke at the UNESCO Site of Memory dedication ceremony in July.

In 2018, New London was designated a "site of memory" on the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization's slave route project, an effort launched in 1994 to "break the silence" around the history of slavery.

New London Landmarks held a ceremony in July to recognize the designation, installing a plaque at Amistad Pier. The site is considered the sixteenth stop on the New London Black Heritage Trail, which was unveiled last year.

The "Middle Passage to New London" plaque explains that in 1761, the Speedwell, a large schooner, arrived in New London from the west coast of Africa transporting 74 captive people. 21 people had not survived the harrowing voyage.

"The Speedwell docked in New London for several days before sailing to Middletown." New London joins Middletown and 51 other ports, or "sites of memory," in North America.

The plaque, and the designation itself, are meant to honor those who died during the Middle Passage, "and the enslaved people whose forced labor created much of New London's early wealth and led to disparities which still exist today."

This hour, we hear from local historians about their research, showing the Speedwell represents a small part of the city’s links to slavery. Plus, the Hempsted Houses are prominently featured on the New London Black Heritage Trail. We'll hear from assistant site administrator Nicole Thomas.

Do you want to learn more about Connecticut's history with slavery? Historian Lonnie Braxton II recommends the following reads:

Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery by Anne Farrow, Joel Lang and Jenifer Frank

The Logbooks: Connecticut's Slave Ships and Human Memory by Anne Farrow

Black Lives, Native Lands, White Worlds: A History of Slavery in New England by Jared Ross Hardesty

The Ledger and the Chain: How Domestic Slave Traders Shaped America by Joshua D. Rothman

Reckoning with Slavery Gender, Kinship, and Capitalism in the Early Black Atlantic by Jennifer L. Morgan


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Katie is a producer for Connecticut Public Radio's news-talk show 'Where We Live.' She has previously worked for CNN and News 8-WTNH.
Lucy leads Connecticut Public's strategies to deeply connect and build collaborations with community-focused organizations across the state.