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New London: Historical Research Guide: Black Life

Researching any aspect of New London history can be tricky. This guide is intended to create a common starting place for college researchers from any field. If you have suggestions for improving the guide, please let us know.


We have a lot to learn about Black life in New London, Connecticut, which undoubtedly takes us back to the 17th-century and perhaps beyond. If you know of any resources that you would like to see featured on this page, please let us know through Ask a Librarian 

New London's Black Heritage Trail


New London’s Black Heritage Trail celebrates three centuries of Black strength, resilience, and accomplishment. Some of the trail’s fifteen sites explore nationally known people or incidents. Others honor people who have been nearly forgotten. Nearly all describe the determination with which New London’s Black community overcame obstacles through personal courage and by founding institutions to meet its social, political, economic and spiritual needs. Together, the sites tell a story about Black life in New London while tying into larger stories about enslavement, the Great Migration and the struggle for civil rights.

New London poised to unveil Black Heritage Trail (9/28/2021).

Black Heritage Trail uncovers little known stories of Black resilience (2/11/2022).

Middle Passage to New London: A significant stop on the city's Black Heritage Trail, Where We Live (8/12/2022).


Arguably the source of inspiration that gave rise to the movement to create the Black Heritage Trail was a presentation on Ichabod Pease who opened a school for New London's Black children in 1837 when he was eighty-one years old:


Connecticut News 12: Road Trip: New London’s Black Heritage Trail celebrates 3 centuries of Black strength (Feb 2, 2023):

New London NAACP


The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.

The vision of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure a society in which all individuals have equal rights without discrimination based on race.


Books on Black life in Connecticut




African American Connecticut: The Black Scene in a New England State: Eighteenth to Twenty-First Century (Trafford, 2008) provides Connecticut’s history of changing racial demographics, evolving race relations, and civil rights.

African American Connecticut Explored (Wesleyan University Press, 2013) is a collection of essays on Connecticut’s inequalities, Black politics, and Civil Rights movements, covering the state's colonization in the mid-17th century to the events of the 1970s.

Black Roots in Southeastern Connecticut, 1650-1900 (Gale, 1980), a milestone in Black genealogical research enabling wider searches for Black roots in America.

For Adam's Sake: A Family Saga in Colonial New England (Liveright, 2013) describes the complexity of the master/slave relationship between Joshua Hempstead, a well-respected farmer and tradesman in New London, Connecticut, in the 1700s, and the man he enslaved named Adam Jackson.

The Myth and Reality of Slavery in Eastern Connecticut: The Brownes of Salem and Absentee Land Ownership (Connecticut Press, 2023), a work of historical research that recasts the story of slavery and Black history in Connecticut.

The Negro in Colonial New England, 1620-1776 (Columbia UP, 1942), the first general work on the role of Black slaves in colonial New England.

New London: A History of Its People (City of New London 350th Anniversary Celebration, 1996), check out the chapter on African Americans in New London.

A Study of the Social and Economic Conditions of the Negro Population of New London, Connecticut (National Urban League; Council of Social Agencies, New London, Conn., 1944).

Tapestry, A Living History of the Black Family in Southeastern Connecticut (New London County Historical Society, 1979) provides a historical overview of Black families in Southeastern Connecticut from 1680 to 1865, specifically focusing on Black men’s role in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. They also include genealogical sketches of many Black families.

A View from the Sixties: The Black Experience in Southeastern Connecticut (New London County Historical Society, 2001) is a memoir  that provides a historical overview of the achievements of New London Civil Rights efforts through the early to mid-twentieth century.


Various collections in the Lear Center for Special Collections & Archives may be relevant to the study of Black life in New London.

Jane Torrey was on the Conn College faculty.  She worked with Linwood Bland and the NAACP.

Peter J. Seng, also on the Conn faculty, was involved with the NAACP and it's publication Conscience.

Prudence Crandall collection - Prudence Crandall was an American schoolteacher and activist who ran the first school for Black girls in the United States, located in Canterbury, Connecticut. Among Crandall's first Black students was Sarah Harris from New London in 1832. The Lear Center holds material related to the life of Prudence Crandall. The archive was left to Connecticut College by Helen Earle Gilbert Sellers, who was at work on a biography of Crandall at the time of her death in 1951.

Robert Cobbledick, also on the Conn faculty, was involved in inviting W.E.B. DuBois to speak here, circa 1929. DuBois did stay in NL at Hempstead Cottage (73 Hempstead Street, one of NL's Green Book sites) in November 1929.

The dignity of goodness: A discourse, delivered at the funeral of Mr. Ichabod Pease, (a man of color,) in St. James' Church, New-London, March 5th, 1842.

A narrative of the life and adventures of Venture [Smith], a native of Africa: but resident above sixty years in the United States of America. Related by himself.

From the Digital Commons @ Connecticut College

Arboretum Bulletins (1934-) past research in the Connecticut College Arboretum has found that freed slaves lived on property that is now part of the Arboretum (see Bulletin no. 32). 

Meeting Unmet Needs: The Evolution of Housing and Aid in New London 1910-1950 (2022) an honors thesis by Madison Taylor  documents New London’s connection to the events of the Great Migration and the Red Summer of 1919.

A Partial History of Connecticut College (2011) an honors thesis by Lilah Raptopoulos documents the history of Black life at Connecticut College. A snapshot of the accompanying website was made in Internet Archive's Wayback Machine and can be seen here.

Mardi Walker and Karin Kuntsler (the famous civil rights lawyer William Kuntsler's daughter) together in a photo about their civil rights work in the student newspaper ConnCensus Vol. 49 No. 23, May 14, 1964. Much more documentation of Mardi Walker and Connecticut College students' civil rights engagements can be found in many sources, including: ConnCensus Vol. 49 No. 15, February 27, 1964ConnCensus Vol. 49 No. 16, March 5, 1964; Connecticut College Magazine, Summer 2009; the Hartford Courant ran extensive coverage; and also in the New London NAACP newsletter the New London Conscience. In 2021, Mardon Walker reflected on her her experience as a Connecticut College exchange student at Spelman College in Atlanta in the fall of 1963 in a conversation with Naomi Graver for Story Corps.

Civil Rights icon Bayard Rustin spoke at Connecticut College civil rights conference in October 1963. He was one of the chief organizers of the famous March on Washington, ConnCensus Vol. 49 No. 3, October 10, 1963. Rustin spoke for at least a second time on the Connecticut College campus in December 1963, ConnCensus Vol. 49 No. 10, December 5, 1963ConnCensus Vol. 49 No. 11, December 12, 1963.

CT State Library

[Bill of sale or indenture made by Eliphalet Adams of New London, Conn. to Joseph and Jonathan Trumble of Lebanon, Conn. whereby he sells his mulatto girl Flora, a slave for life.] (1736).

Log book of slave traders between New London and Africa, 1757-8.

New London County African American Court Cases - A spreadsheet of over 1,000 court cases involving African Americans and people of color between 1701 and 1822. 

New London County African Americans and People of Color Collection, 1701-1854, Judicial Department - A finding aid for court cases involving African Americans and people of color.

The Slave's Cry (1844) newspaper published by Friends of the Slave.



Hackley and Harrison Hotel and Apartment Guide for Colored Travelers


The first Black travel guide, Hackley and Harrison’s Hotel and Apartment Guide for Colored Travelers, was published in 1930 in response to the growing number of African Americans who were purchasing and traveling by automobile, six years before the Green Book. It was created by an African American lawyer, Edwin Henry Hackley, and Sarah D. Harrison, a secretary at Connecticut’s New London Negro Welfare Council (also known as the Negro Urban League). Hackley and Harrison created their first edition soon after W. E. B. Du Bois [who lived in Great Barrington, Mass] wrote to Harrison seeking safe lodging for a trip to New London. The guide listed hotels and motels in three hundred cities throughout the United States and Canada. *

Research guide from NYPL.

New London woman penned precursor to Green Book, The Day (1/10/2020).

Connecticut’s Green Book Sites: A Glimpse at Forgotten History, CT By the Numbers (9/12/2020).


The Green Book and Orchard House Program Resource List – Compiled by Tom Schuch for his Zoom Program with Lee Howard, Downing Simmons Jr., Gregory Simmons and Lynne Stallworth titled “The Negro Motorist Green Book in New London and Stonington.”

Digital Collections

New London County Historical Society

The New London County Historical Society is the oldest historical organization in eastern Connecticut and located in the historic Shaw Mansion in downtown New London. They maintain a large section on Black history in their files, they have an album of historic newspaper clippings related to Black life in New London, and a notebook that Linwood Bland, Jr. put together about Black trail blazers.


Redlining, housing discrimination


Discrimination, Urban Renewal, and New London’s Lost Neighborhood digital tour with maps and primary source documents, CT Fair Housing Center.

Discrimination, Urban Renewal, and New London’s Lost Neighborhood (4/10/2018), CT Fair Housing Center, event listing.

Urban Renewal and Highway Construction in New London 1941-1975, ed. Anna Vallye (NLCHS, 2021).

Mapping Urban Renewal in New London: 1941-1975, interactive GIS map, ed. Anna Vallye.

The Federal Government and Redlining in Connecticut, CT Explored magazine (Summer 2019).

Housing Segregation in Greater New Haven, Data Haven (5/2018).


Black Heritage on the Thames River


On Monday, April 8, 2024, Tom Schuch was invited by Professor Taylor Desloge to speak about New London's history for his Connecticut College course African American History, 1619-1865:

Connecticut Freedom Trail


The Connecticut Freedom Trail documents and designates sites that embody the struggle toward freedom and human dignity, celebrates the accomplishments of the state's African American community, and promotes heritage tourism.