Hartford Black History Project
A brief overview

The Hartford Black History Project aims to make historial information and artifacts accessible to students and the public through an exhibit, the medium of Internet, and by hosting educational and cultural events.

The Project originated as an exhibit entitled, "A Struggle from the Start," that was distributed between two host institutions: the Charter Oak Cultural Center ("Stories of Passage") and the Connecticut Historical Society ("The Black Community of Hartford: 1639-1960"). With the support of corporate funding, there were significant accomplishments:

  • the first comprehensive research on the history of Hartford's Black community between the 17th and 20th centuries;
  • thousands of students from Hartford and suburban schools visited the exhibit to gain a sense of the interest and importance of the Black community in Hartford's history;
  • the establishment of a docent program to train guides at both sites;
  • the exhibit enabled the Capitol Region Education Council to develop Black history studies in 34 school districts;
  • publication of a comic book for young people on "Hartford's Early Black History," written by Billie C. Anthony and illustrated by Kenneth B. Lowe;
  • a professional videotape on the exhibit for use in schools and by the community.

One aim of the Project was to create a community-based non-profit corporation to perpetuate the Project, maintain an exhibit, and add to the the fund of knowledge it had gathered. Late in 1996 a community board was established that was supported by an Advisory Committee. By Spring 1997, a Planning Committee began working toward mounting an exhibit in space donated by the Ætna Insurance Company at the Pavilion in downtown Hartford. A grant from the Connecticut Humanities Council supported part of the cost for the design and remounting, and the exhibit opened on June 20th. Besides opening the exhibit itself, in the summer of 1997 the HBHP also accomplished the following:

  • a docent program which employed area youth during the summer months and introduced them to Black History and public relations;
  • drawing to the exhibit large numbers of very appreciative visitors, many of whom decided to join as members;
  • holding fundraisers in the community and the beginning of a systematic effort to locate grant monies;
  • support for the Ancient Burying Ground project;
  • a web page to include digitalized portions of the exhibit.
  • digitalization of the Hartford Studies Project slide collection for display on the web site as a supplement to the exhibit.
This promising beginning was interrupted in August by a necessary move to new quarters on the second floor of the Hartford Civic Center, also generously donated by the Ætna Insurance Company. This new space supports mounting a good part of the exhibit and holding cultural and educational events. During the Fall of 1997, community volunteers moved and remounted the exhibit, and on 19 January 1998 there was a Preview opening. Since then the exhibit remains open on a limited schedule until its formal opening planned for 15 February 1998.

The HBHP has as its goals:

  • to build the community base needed to raise funds and further the aims of the Project;
  • to structure exhibit materials into modules that support their circulation at the exhibit site and within in the school system;
  • modularization lends itself to a rational procedure to develop the exhibit yet further within the parameter of the fundamental importance of the community itself rather than reduce history to the deeds of great men;
  • to maintain at Hartford's center an educational resource for area students that memorializes the contributions of the Black community to the City's history and to encourage its use both on line and by class visits;
  • specific educational projects to stimulate student interest in historical study and research;
  • to renew the research efforts necessary to expand the chronology of the exhibit after 1960 and to enrich the representation of areas already covered, especially the social institutions of church, family, and neighborhood;
  • to broaden our cooperative relations with related institutions beyond the Connecticut Historical Society and Charter Oak Culture Center, particularly with the John Rogers Society, Amistad Foundation, and a proposed Hartford archaeologist;
  • the establishment of a searchable and publically accessible on-line genealogical database in which people can deposit family information in order to preserve the memory of the families that shaped Hartford's history;
  • to develop an oral history program to build a collection of oral history tapes.

Any announcements will appear on the Hartford Black History Project home page, so visit us often. If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to contact the HBHP secretary, Haines Brown.