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Slavery and Abolition


Testing the camping equipment on The Gunnery’s campus in Washington

Reading, Writing, and the Great Outdoors: Frederick Gunn’s School Transforms Victorian-era Education

In 1850, this educator, prominent abolitionist, and outdoorsman founded The Gunnery, a school in Washington, Connecticut.

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The Seth Wetmore House: A Storied Structure of 18th Century Middletown

Seth Wetmore was a merchant, judge, and deputy to the General Court of Connecticut. His house is one of Middletown’s oldest homes and one of thirty-three in the city listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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John Brown

John Brown Born – Today in History: May 9

On May 9, 1800, the man who became a catalyst…

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Blacksmith Isaac Glasko Challenges the State Constitution

Isaac Glasko was a blacksmith of mixed African American and Native American descent who challenged 19th-century voting rights in Connecticut.

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The 29th Leaves for War – Today in History: March 19

On March 19, 1864, as the 29th (Colored) Regiment Connecticut…

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A return of the number of inhabitants in the State of Connecticut

Connecticut’s Black Governors

For approximately one hundred years, Connecticut’s “Black Governors” were used by white authorities to help maintain order among the black population.

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The Old State House, Hartford

Jackson v. Bulloch and the End of Slavery in Connecticut

Nancy Jackson, a Georgia-born slave living in Hartford, sued for her freedom in 1837. Her victory helped further the abolitionist cause in a state slowly moving toward outlawing slavery.

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Little Bethel AME Church, 44 Lake Avenue, Greenwich

Site Lines: Fortresses of Faith, Agents of Change

Black churches, including the earliest ones in Connecticut, have long been at the forefront in the battle for social progress and equality.

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The Fugitive and the Hero

A runaway slave, evading the legal realities of the Fugitive Slave Law while working aboard the steamship Hero, jumped ship in East Haddam, narrowly avoiding the slave catchers that awaited him in Hartford.

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The birthplace of John Brown, Torrington

The Fight Over Slavery Reaches Torrington

In the years prior to the Civil War, Torrington, like…

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Advertisement from The Hartford Daily Courant, October 8, 1852

Augustus Washington (1820 – 1875): African American Daguerreotypist

Though his work depicts people of different classes and cultures, ironically, no portraits of African Americans survive from his years in Hartford.

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Reverend James Pennington: A Voice for Freedom

Having escaped from slavery in Maryland, this accomplished pastor, publisher, and freedom fighter challenged racism wherever he found it, even within the ranks of the abolitionist movement and the ministry.

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Portrait detail of Frederick Douglass

“An Admirable Portrait” of Frederick Douglass

Hartford photographer Stephen H. Waite capitalized on the public’s interest in the great abolitionist.

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Valley Forge, 1777

A Connecticut Slave in George Washington’s Army

Nero Hawley, born into slavery in Connecticut in the 18th…

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Portrait of James Williams from his biography

James Williams, More than Trinity College’s Janitor

James Williams was an escaped slave who became a janitor at Trinity College from the institution’s founding in 1823 until his death in 1878.

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Apostle of Peace: Elihu Burritt’s Quest for Universal Brotherhood

Elihu Burritt, a blacksmith by trade, became an advocate for peace around the world throughout the 19th century.

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Map of the West Indies, 1717

Connecticut and the West Indies: Sugar Spurs Trans-Atlantic Trade

This profitable exchange brought wealth and sought-after goods to the state but came at the price of supporting slavery in the bargain.

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Ellis Ruley: Art that Celebrated Life

January 5, 2021 • Arts, Norwich, Slavery and Abolition

Ellis Ruley, the son of a slave who escaped to Norwich, rose to prominence as an artist, but prosperity and racial tensions created resentment among members of the local population.

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The Great Remedy. Hand-colored lithograph by E.B. & E.C. Kellogg

The Great Remedy: Picturing the Emancipation Proclamation

On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, declaring more than three million African Americans in those states in rebellion against the United States to be forever free.

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Detail from the Articles of agreement between the English in Connecticutt and the Indian Sachems

Slavery and the Pequot War

For some, the existence of slavery in New England is…

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Death of Captain Ferrer

The Amistad

After slaves revolted and took control of the Amistad in 1839, Americans captured the ship off Long Island and imprisoned the slaves in New Haven. A US Supreme Court trial in which Roger Sherman Baldwin and John Quincy Adams defended the slaves, ultimately won them their freedom.

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Third Annual Report of the Managers of the Colonization Society of the State of Connecticut

Liberian Independence Day

The Colonization Society of Connecticut was part of a national movement that arose before the Civil War to promote emigration of free blacks to Africa.

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Front view of John Browns birthplace, Torrington

Hidden Nearby: John Brown’s Torrington Birthplace

Ruins are all that remain of the birthplace of this transformative figure in US history.

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Frederick Douglass

Speaking under the Open Sky: Frederick Douglass in Connecticut

The famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass had several connections to Connecticut, including run-ins with a number of the state’s vocal slavery proponents.

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A Successful Lawyer and Politician Who Never Went to College

Chauncey Fitch Cleveland was a lawyer and politician who served…

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Illustration of Hebron by John Warner Barber

Changing Sentiments on Slavery in Colonial Hebron

Residents of Hebron rescued local slaves Lowis and Cesar Peters, and their children, from South Carolina slave traders. After emancipation, the rescued family became farmers in town.

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Portrait of James Mars

1850s Equal Rights Activist James Mars

James Mars was born into slavery in Connecticut in 1790….

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Valley Forge, 1777

A Connecticut Slave in George Washington’s Army

Nero Hawley, born into slavery in Connecticut in the 18th…

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Attributed to Osbert Burr Loomis, Nancy Toney, oil on canvas

Nancy Toney’s Lifetime in Slavery

From scant evidence, including a portrait, gravestone, census data, and will, a partial image of a Connecticut life lived in slavery emerges.

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Freedom to the Slave

From the State Historian: Connecticut’s Slow Steps Toward Emancipation

Slavery remained in the Land of Steady Habits until 1848, and it was not quick to advance suffrage for African Americans, either.

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Manumission document for slave Bristow, from Thomas Hart Hooker, Hartford

Gradual Emancipation Reflected the Struggle of Some to Envision Black Freedom

Connecticut enacted gradual emancipation in 1784 but the abolition of slavery would not occur until 1848.

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An Orderly & Decent Government: Making Self-Government Work, 1776-1818

The freedom won in the American Revolution did not spread to African Americans. The Constitution of 1818 formed the basis for state government until 1965.

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Birth of a Nation Advertisement

Hartford’s Challenge to “The Birth of a Nation”

D. W. Griffith’s silent movie, the racially charged “Birth of a Nation,” initially played to large audiences in Hartford before meeting with official resistance after World War I.

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Detail from a map of Hayt

Ebenezer Bassett’s Historic Journey

This educator, activist, and associate of Frederick Douglass served the US as its first African American ambassador.

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Map of the Freedom Trail Sites

Site Lines: Connecticut’s Freedom Trail

Sites along the Connecticut Freedom Trail mark key events in the quest to achieve freedom and social equality for African Americans in the state.

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Video – Connecticut’s Cultural Treasures: Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum

Connecticut’s Cultural Treasures is a series of 50 five-minute film vignettes that profiles a variety of the state’s most notable cultural resources.

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A Different Look at the Amistad Trial: The Teenager Who Helped Save the Mende Captives

James Benajmin Covey, a former slave, was only 14 years old when asked to serve in one of the most publicized trials in American history.

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Image of Soldiers Memorial, Company B, 29th Regiment, Connecticut Volunteers

Connecticut’s Black Civil War Regiment

“If you win freedom and citizenship, we shall share your freedom and citizenship.” With these words, abolitionist Frederick Douglass reminded African American soldiers from Connecticut that they fought for the hopes of many.

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Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin Published 1852

Harriet Beecher was born to a prominent Connecticut family in…

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Map of the Town of New Britain, Hartford County, Conn. From original surveys by E.M. Woodford

“A Noble and Precious Life”: Edgar M. Woodford, Civil Engineer, Abolitionist, and Soldier

This Avon-born man not only put his talents on the map, literally, he also went west to secure Kansas as a free state.

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James Mars

James Mars’ Words Illuminate the Cruelty of Slavery in New England

Mars’ landmark memoir of the mid-1800s reveals how enslaved men and women suffered—and resisted—the injustices of bondage.

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James Lindsey Smith Takes the Underground Railroad to Connecticut

James Lindsey Smith was one of many slaves who found freedom through the Underground Railroad network that included many stops in Connecticut, including New Haven, Hartford, and Norwich.

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Venture Smith's headstone

Venture Smith, from Slavery to Freedom

Smith’s account sheds light on the experience of enslaved and free blacks in 18th-century Connecticut.

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John Brown: A Portrait of Violent Abolitionism

John Brown of Torrington used violence to oppose the spread of slavery prior to the Civil War, ultimately leading a bloody raid on the armory in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia.

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Am I not a man and a brother?

Early Anti-slavery Advocates in 18th-century Connecticut

Ideals advanced during the American Revolution inspired many of the state’s religious and political leaders to question and oppose slavery in the late 1700s.

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Underground Railroad Agents in Connecticut

New Britain Plays Part in the Underground Railroad

February 5, 2015 • New Britain, Slavery and Abolition

The Underground Railroad, developed in the early 19th century, was…

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Hotchkiss House, Prospect

The Legacy of David Miles Hotchkiss

David Miles Hotchkiss was an educator, abolitionist, and public servant…

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John Randall House, North Stonington

North Stonington’s Randall House, Nothing Ordinary about It

Randall’s Ordinary was the dream of Connecticut natives William and…

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