The Freedom Trail Quilt project and the display of the quilts in the Museum of Connecticut History represent an acknowledgement by public and private groups of the great significance of the Freedom Trail story within the history of Connecticut and the nation.
Goffe Street School
Heather A. Williams
The former Goffe Street School was built in 1864 to provide a much-needed facility for African American children. It closed ten years later, after Connecticut ended racially segregated education, and many of its former students attended predominantly white public schools. Subsequently used by a number of organizations working with the African American community, the building was purchased in 1929 by the Grand Lodge of Prince Hall Masons of Connecticut. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and is known as Widow's Son Lodge #1.
Located throughout Connecticut are graves of the African Americans who fought in the American Revolution. However, stones or markers seem to exist for only a few of them. In the town cemetery in Milford, to the right of the long driveway, is a monument dedicated to American Revolutionary War prisoners whom townspeople tried to save when the prisoners were abandoned by the British. At the foot of this monument is a large white stone listing the names of Milford's soldiers who served in the war.
Heather A. Williams
The noted abolitionist Simeon Jocelyn developed Trowbridge Square in the 1830s in partnership with architect and builder Isaac Thompson. The area was established for New Haven's low-income working class population and was meant to be a model egalitarian residential community populated by African Americans and whites.
Dixwell Senior Center: Sadie Holley, Mattie Dew, Ann Louther, Florence Cables, Shirley Wilcox, Irrita Osborne, Charlotte Williams
This memorial, dedicated in 1992, pays tribute to Joseph Cinque and the other Africans who escaped slavery in 1839 by commandeering the Spanish ship Amistad. The memorial was created by Ed Hamilton and stands where the New Haven Jail was located at the time the African captives were housed there.
First Baptist Church of Milford
Heather A. Williams
Memorial to six black soldiers from Milford who served in the Revolutionary War: Job Caesar, Pomp Cyrus, Juba Freeman, Peter Gibbs, William Sower, Congo Zado. Dedicated at a special ceremony in 1976, it is displayed in front of the First Baptist Church, an African American Congregation.
Nero Hawley's Grave
Nero Hawley was one of numerous slaves in Connecticut who joined the Continental Army during the American Revolution and were freed at the end of the war. He served at Valley Forge, and his life is featured in the book From Valley Forge to Freedom, which also notes other areas of Trumbull associated with Hawley's life. Hawley died in 1817 at the age of 75. Riverside Cemetery is a short walk off Daniel's Farm Road and near Route 127. Hawley's grave is in the center row, near the far end of this small cemetery.
New Haven Colony Historical Society
Is a Colonial Revival style building that contains many New Haven artifacts, including a portrait of Joseph Cinque, the leader of the Africans who revolted on the Amistad.
Grove Street Cemetery
Heather A. Williams
This cemetery opened in 1796 and replaced the Old Burial Ground located on the New Haven Green. Many New Haven residents who were well known in American life are buried here. The cemetery includes the graves of those active in the abolition movement, as well as those associated with African American history.
Walter's Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church
Cynthia Norton, Claudia Green
Walter's Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church has been located at this site since 1882. When its original structure was destroyed by fire in 1951, the current building was erected on the surviving foundation. The building is one of the few reminders of an earlier African American Community known as "Little Liberia." Made up of free blacks, former slaves and their descendants, and migrants from the South, this community supported two churches, a school, and a number of individual homes
Renny Loisel, Heather A. Williams
Was part of New Haven's port system before the steamship changed the way goods were brought into the United States. The life-size working replica of the Amistad is docked here. This ship offers exhibitions and programs on African American history, and sails to other ports to participate in events.
Dixwell Congregational Church
Was founded in 1820 under the direction of Simeon Jocelyn. In 1829, it affiliated with Congregationalists and became known as Temple Street Congregational Church. Its first African American minister was James W.C. Pennington, and from 1841 to 1858 Amos Gerry Beman was the pastor. Both were well-known African American leaders in the United States. During Beman's ministry, the growth of the church made it necessary to relocate the congregation to a new building. By 1836, the church moved to Dixwell Avenue, where it developed numerous community programs under the Reverend Edward Goin. These programs later became associated with the Dixwell Community House. The present structure was built in 1968.
Varick Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church
Heather A. Williams
Varick African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church was organized in 1818 when more than 30 African Americans left the Methodist Church to form their own congregation. In 1820, it became officially affiliated with the Zionist church movement of James Varick, who helped lead a separation from white Methodism because African American preachers were not permitted to be ordained. By 1841, the church had a building on Broad Street, but it relocated in 1872 to Foote Street. In 1908, the present building was constructed, and it was here that Booker T. Washington made his last public speech before his death in 1915. The church is included in the Winchester Repeating Arms Company National Register Historic District.
Hannah Gray Home
Heather A. Williams
Hannah Gray was a laundress and seamstress who used part of her income to promote the antislavery movement and support her church. Through her will, Gray donated her house at 158 Dixwell Avenue (no longer extant) to be used as a refuge for "indigent Colored Females". Because her will did not include funding to administer the home, it was almost sold for delinquent taxes in 1904. It was saved by the Women's Twentieth Century Club, an organization for African American Women, which took responsibility for maintaining it. The present Hannah Gray house at 235 Dixwell Avenue, acquired in 1911 and accommodating more residents than the original structure, continues in operation in accordance with its founder's goals. The building is included in the Winchester Repeating Arms Company National Register Historic District.
New Haven People's Center
Constructed in the 1850s, this building was acquired in 1938 by Jewish immigrant workers and used as a social and cultural center for community groups, including African Americans. New Haven's first interracial drama group and first integrated basketball team were started here. During its early years, the Center succeeded in getting African Americans admitted to some craft unions in the city; it also attempted, without success, to force the Connecticut Bus Company to hire black drivers. Activities of the Center on behalf of African Americans were forerunners of initiatives which, 25 years later, ended some racial injustices in society.
United Church on the Green
Jo Buchanan, Carol Buell
This building was originally known as the North Church (Congregational) which merged with the Third Church (Congregational) in 1884 to create the United Church. Several members of the two earlier congregations were abolitionists who also assisted New Haven's free black community. They included Roger Sherman Baldwin, Nathaniel and Simeon Jocelyn, and the Reverend Samuel Dutton. Baldwin, a lawyer, was active in the defense of the Amistad Africans and is commemorated by a plaque inside the church. The church is included in the New Haven Green National Historic Landmark District.
Center Church on the Green
The church had a congregation that was involved in developing support for the Amistad captives. It was founded in 1638, and beneath the present 1812-1814 building is a cemetery dating back to colonial times. The property is a National Landmark.
The Freedom Trail Quilt project and the display of the quilts in the Connecticut State Library's Museum of Connecticut History represent an acknowledgement by public and private groups of the great significance of the Freedom Trail story within the history of Connecticut and the nation.
Sara Prentis, Dick Pandora, Betty Kelly
Is now the Art Guild. Its upper floor was rented to abolitionist groups for meetings. It was originally located at the present site of the Porter Memorial on Main Street and is now owned by the First Church of Christ, Congregational.
Austin Williams Carriage House
Cynthia Cooper, Peg Yung, Eunice Heinlein, Betty Kelly
Was the location of the primary home for the Amistad Africans during their stay in Farmington. Austin F. Williams, a leading abolitionist in town, had a building constructed as a residence for the Africans. Shortly after this, he built his own home and later converted the first structure to a carriage house. The property is privately owned and not open to the public.
Milo Freeland Grave
Jill Gibbons, Corinne Levy
Milo Freeland is credited with being the first African American to volunteer for the Union Army during the Civil War. He did this as a member of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the subject of the film, Glory. His picture appears in the book, A Brave Black Regiment by Luis F. Emilio. Originally a resident of Sheffield, Massachusetts, Freeland died in 1883 while living in East Canaan. The stone that now marks his grave was placed in Hillside Cemetery, Route 44, East Canaan in 1996 following a rededication ceremony in his honor, and is located in Lot B8 to the rear of the cemetery, immediately to the right of the center driveway.
Hopkins Street Center
Located at the corner of Hopkins and Pearl Streets, this building was once known as the Pearl Street Neighborhood House. It served as a settlement house for Waterbury's African American community, particularly migrants arriving from the South after the First World War. It continued to be a settlement house and community center from the 1920s into the 1980s and is now used for cultural events in conjunction with its owner, the Zion Baptist Church. The Waterbury NAACP was founded in this building in 1942, and it was once the home of the city's Urban League.
Rev. Noah Porter House
Dick Pandora, Norma Francini, Ruth McCarthy
Belonged to the minister of the Congregational Church and provided a home for one of the three African children in the Amistad group. The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was organized here. It is a private residence and not open to the public.
James Mars Poem
Barry Webber, Ruthann Olsson
James Mars was born into slavery in Connecticut in 1790 and became free through the gradual emancipation law enacted by the state in 1784. Mars wrote a pamphlet about his experiences, Life of James Mars, a Slave Born and Sold in Connecticut, which can be found in the book Five Black Lives. Mars was freed at the age of 21 and spent much of his life in Hartford and Norfolk, Connecticut. Always active in the church, he became a deacon of Talcott Street Congregational Church in Hartford. Mars helped organize meetings to promote freedom for slaves and to improve conditions for free African Americans. In 1842, he petitioned the Connecticut General Assembly in an effort to gain the right to vote, which was denied African Americans in the state's constitution. Mars lived his later years in Norfolk and supplied information on the history of that town which appeared in the 1900 publication History of Norfolk, written 20 years after his death. Mars is buried alongside his father, Jupiter Mars, who served in the American Revolution. Nearby are graves of the Freedom family, who are also mentioned in the above town history. These stones are located to the rear and left of the first entrance into the cemetery. To the right of this entrance, and near the wall next to Old Colony Road, is the grave of Alanon Freemen, who served in the all-black Connecticut Twenty-Ninth Regiment in the Civil War. The quilt square incorporates a poem written by James Mars, "God Never Made a Slave":
Marian Anderson Studio
Marian Anderson was born in Philadelphia in 1902 and as a young woman was noted for her singing ability. Finding few opportunities to perform in the United States, she won recognition in Europe. After her return to America, she sang in concerts in New York City and at the White House. When she was denied permission to sing at Washington D.C.'s Constitution Hall in 1939, the government arranged for her to perform at the Lincoln Memorial before some 75,000 listeners. A year later she purchased her home in Danbury, known as "Marianna Farms", where she and her husband raised five children. She lived here for some 50 years. Near the house is a small building that she used as her rehearsal studio. Named a delegate to the United Nations in 1958, Anderson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963. She retired from concert performances in 1964 but continued to be active in various issues and causes. Her autobiography, My Lord, What a Morning, was published in 1956. In 1999, the company developing Mariana Farm donated the studio to the Danbury Museum and it was moved to the Museum's property on Main Street. A permanent exhibit celebrating Marian Anderson's musical legacy is being installed.
Sara Prentis, Peg Yung, Betty Kelly
Was built in 1832 by John Treadwell Norton, a major supporter of the Amistad Africans. It is operated by the University of Connecticut as a conference center and as a bed and breakfast.
Samuel Deming Store
Dick Pandora, Norma Francini, Sara Prentis, Ruth Bernadt
Provided second-floor quarters for the Amistad Africans on their arrival in Farmington, but the space was later set up as a school where they attended classes for five hours a day, six days a week. Although the property is privately owned, it is operated as Your Village Store.
John Brown's Birthplace
Catherine Pelletier Avallone
One of the most famous abolitionists in America was John Brown, whose armed raid on the U.S. arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, in 1859 for the purpose of ending slavery, foreshadowed the government's war two years later to achieve the same end. Brown was born in Torrington, Connecticut in 1800 at this site. The house was destroyed by fire in 1918, but the property is maintained by the John Brown Association. The image of Brown's house is incorporated in the City of Torrington's seal. Pikes used by John Brown and his men in the Harper's Ferry raid were made by the Collins Company, located in Collinsville section of Canton. The Canton Historical Museum has one of these pikes on display.
First Church of Christ Congregational
Sara Prentis, Jean Johnson, Peg Yung, Joan Dahlberg, Ruth Bernadt, Betty Kelly
Supported the Amistad Case through its members who provided clothing, housing, education, and Christian teaching to the Africans while they lived in Farmington awaiting funds to return to Africa. The church is a National Historic Landmark.
Betty Kelly, Peg Yung
Riverside Cemetery is where Foone, one of the Africans on the Amistad, is buried. He drowned while swimming in Pitkin Basin. Beyond the Indian Obelisk was the Farmington Canal and open meadow where the Africans raised crops.
Connecticut General Assembly authorized the designation of some forty public and private historic properties to form a network which would convey the dramatic and important story of Connecticut’s African-American experience – the Connecticut Freedom Trail. Included are historic properties which have been deemed worthy for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, National Register of Historic Landmarks and the Connecticut State Register of Historic Places. Among the gravesites, monuments, homes and other structures included are sites associated with the Underground Railroad, the Amistad Case, and such notable persons as Paul Robeson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Prudence Crandall.
In 1997, a grass roots citizens group of interested volunteers from every corner of the State came together to form the Freedom Trail Planning Committee. They dedicated their time and efforts to creating a lasting tribute to the Connecticut Freedom Trail through one of the most traditional of American art forms – quilting. Four quilts, representing each region of Connecticut, were completed in 1998.
Funding for the Connecticut Freedom Trail was provided and administered by the Connecticut Historical Commission and Department of Economic and Community Development, Tourism Division, 1999.
Quilt framing was donated by Pratt & Whitney, 1999.
Connecticut Freedom Trail Planning Committee:
Jerry Ann Putt
The Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism graciously granted permission for the State Library to use, in this web exhibit, verbatim and paraphrased descriptions of the individual squares from the brochure produced by one of its predecessor agencies, the Connecticut Historical Commission.
Related Resources Available at CSL:
- The Amistad Affair
- Prudence Crandall
- The Life and Times of William Webb: An African-American Civil War Soldier from Connecticut
- Log Book of Slave Traders between New London and Africa, 1757-8
- Research Guide to African-American Genealogical Resources at the Connecticut State Library
- Research Guide to Materials Relating to Slavery in Connecticut at the Connecticut State Library