Finding Histories: Page 3

Remember that Connecticut’s colonial wealth came from farming and shipping, two endeavors with deep ties to slavery. What was your town’s early history? Was it a farming community? What kinds of food were grown? Who were its founders? What kinds of enterprises were they involved in? Where did their money come from?

Money in the old days worked the way money does now: It bought things. Men who made money provisioning the sugar islands often bought land, built great houses for themselves and their families, were generous with their communities and left money to their children. Jeremiah Wadsworth of Hartford, for example, was successful in the Caribbean trade, bought and sold slaves, and left a fortune to his son Daniel, who built the first public art museum in America, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.

Did your town have a newspaper or newspapers during the eighteenth century? Are there copies at your local historical society or library? The Connecticut State Library and the Connecticut Historical Society both maintain large archives of old newspapers from around the state and may have copies of a newspaper once published in your town.

The pages of the New London Summary and Gazette from the eighteenth century are filled with advertisements for enslaved people who ran away and for people being sold. Local newspapers will also occasionally report on the lives of Connecticut’s free blacks, and while such reporting needs to be read carefully to account for the biases of the reporters; nonetheless, such reporting can provide a window into the lives and struggles of Connecticut’s African Americans…..