Born in Struggle, 1819-1860:
Rising Black Bourgeosie

Following the Revolutionary War, some Black veterans were able to join the ruling class. An example is Lemuel Haynes. He was a freeman born in 1753 in what was to become West Hartford, but ended up in Massachusets as a servant. When the War began, he enlisted as Minuteman in 1774 and fought at Lexington, the siege of Boston, and went on the Ticonderoga expedition in New York.

This military experience left him with ambitions. He studied theology under a clergyman in Canaan, Connecticut, and was eventually ordained in Litchfield in November, 1785. He went on to become a minister in Torrington and then in Rutland, Vermont, where he preached more than thirty years. He was a preacher much sought after in New England, and his color made no difference. This was because the old attitudes still prevailed, for despite humble beginnings, he had become a professional and hence a respected member of the ruling class. It would not be long, though, before one's personal qualities could not overcome the fact of one's being Black.

This picture of Reverend Lemuel Haynes is from a lithograph of c. 1839, reproduced in Timothy Mather Cooley, Sketches of the Life and Character of the Reverend Lemuel Haynes. . .

Of course, such success stories in which Black individuals folded smoothly into white society, were necessarily exceptional, and their significance today as models of behavior is in proportion to the liklihood of a typical Black person rising to the heights of social status and power.

Reverend Haynes' sucessful career within the church should not obscure the early role of the church, which was not the liberation of Black people, but its prevention. At the time, the church institution was controlled by whites who aimed to "civilize" Blacks in the sense that their struggles for progress could only be in terms of prevailing white values and institutions.

The concept "civilization" had appeared in the previous century as an important part of emerging bourgeois ideology. It served as an antidote to the notion of the sovereign individual, for there was need to counterbalance the anarchy implied by eighteenth-century social atomism, whether that anarchy was moral, economic or political (once the revolution was over). Civilization was therefore invented to refer to a willing submission of autonomous property owners to laws of their own devising so that they could enter into "rational" social relations. The empirical effect of "rationality" - and civilization more broadly - was an increase in one's personal property and the wealth of nations.

An important civilizing force was found in religion, for the art of voluntarily restraining one's autonomy, natural inclinations or appetites in the name of higher principle or law was sanctioned by Christian belief. Naturally, the early revolutionary indifference or even hostility to organized religion gave way to its warm accomodation once the new ruling class felt itself to be secure. The ruling bourgeosie had every reason to encourage education in the Black community as a potent instrument of social control, and since Blacks did not have access to what little public education was available in Hartford, the City fathers were in favor of elementary education in Black churches. If this sounds a little cynical, keep in mind that neither political life nor, to any extent, employment required an education. It was costly then as it is today, and one can never take its existence for granted as either a natural right or as intrinsically beneficial.

In the 1830's there were riots in which Black confronted white. One assumes this encouraged the provision of some education in the Black churches. The principal example was the school set up in the A.M.E. Zion Church that had existed on Pearl Street since 1836. Classes here for the Black children living in the nearby community along the Park River were taught by the Black author Ann Plato.

By current standards, the building was an impressive; classes were taught by a sophisticated woman. At the time women were seen as civilizers of their husbands' baser instincts, and so it was mandatory that women be employed as teachers to "civilize" their pupils. However, having noted this social function of education in the Black community, it remains that some graduates from this school undoubtedly drew upon their education as a basis of a career in the the white world, and in a few cases actually joined the ruling bourgeoisie themselves.

William Saunders Cheap Store The rudiments of an education and exposure to the ruling class through the church or military service, and the rising tide of general economic development in Hartford, naturally led to some Blacks suceeding in white terms. An example is William Saunders, whose "Cheap Store" for men's clothing was located some 15 rods (83 yards) south of the old State House.

Such a movement into the ruling class might seem to show promise for at least a portion of Black population, but in the long run this promise was empty. The location of Saunder's store symbolizes the limits of opening a small business, for the spot later came to be dominated by finance capital (the bank and insurance company buildings are still there) when the basis of Hartford's economy shifted away from light industry to begin an economic decline from which she has yet to recover.

Here are some Blacks who were successful to varying degrees
in white society
Selah Africanus
school teacher and abolitionist
John Cross
James Patterson
The Saunders Brothers
owners of a dry goods store
Jeremiah Asher
author and minister
E. C. Freeman
Ann Plato
author and school teacher
Venture Smith
Benjamin Brown
public crier
Jeremiah Jacobs
cobbler and shoemaker
Holdridge Primus
Augustus Washington
Louisa Brown
James Mars
author, abolitionist, veteran
Rebecca Primus
"Professor" James Williams
janitor of Trinity College

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