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Witness Stones West Hartford Offering Virtual Community History Project

The silhouette designed by muralist Corey Pane includes the names of Black individuals who have been key figures in the Black Lives Matter movement as well as several who were enslaved in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

In collaboration with the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society, Witness Stones West Hartford is offering a free virtual learning series with the project directors.

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The public is invited to attend a series of free online classes this March and April offered by Witness Stones West Hartford. In the series of four, one-hour classes, you will work with project directors Dr. Tracey Wilson, Liz Devine, and Denise deMello to remember the lives of enslaved people who lived in what was then known as the West Division of Hartford.

Participants in the series of classes will learn about the history of slavery and freedom in West Hartford by using the database of more than 80 people enslaved here. Participants will have the opportunity to interpret 1700s account books and other historical documents in order to learn more about Titus and Julia Thomas, who were enslaved and then freed. Attendees will discuss issues of inclusion, equity, and diversity both throughout history and today.

Witness Stones West Hartford offered its first series of online classes in 2020 to rave reviews. Participants commented that the classes “give credibility and connection to our history,”  “help us to look at a fuller more true picture of the truth,” and “publicly validate enslaved people’s lives and experiences here in West Hartford.”

Since 2018, Witness Stones West Hartford has taught over 2,500 students and 150 adults, providing research and resources to learn about West Hartford and write the public history of the town. The project seeks to restore the history and honor the humanity and contributions of enslaved individuals who helped build our communities. Each person researched is also honored in a lasting way with the installation of a Witness Stone in Old Center Cemetery. Currently you can view 36 Witness Stones in the cemetery which is located at 30 North Main St., West Hartford. An additional 14 stones will be added during the course of 2022.

Classes take place Thursdays in March and April from 7-8 p.m., March 17, 24, 31, and April 7. Classes are appropriate for adults and students in grades 5 and up.

This community project is free and open to the public. For more information and to register visit https://bit.ly/3v5zBXZ, or email the Town Historian[email protected].

Classes are brought to you with the support of the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society and funders including the Winter-Lehman Family Foundation, the Roosa Foundation, the Sandra and Arnold Chase Family Foundation, West Hartford Public Schools, and other generous donors. Participants are asked to consider a donation of $50 to the Noah Webster House to support this and future public programs.

The Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society is a cultural destination where citizens can learn to understand and appreciate the past. The museum preserves the birthplace of Noah Webster, the founding father, educator, author, and lexicographer who taught generations of Americans what it means to be American. This National Historic Landmark is also a repository for the history of West Hartford, the community that molded Noah Webster’s future and is still thriving over 250 years later. The historic house and exhibit spaces are open Tuesday through Saturday 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. For information on the museum’s extensive school and public programs, please visit www.noahwebsterhouse.org or call 860-521-5362.

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