WALLINGFORD — An upcoming presentation delves into the latest research into the population of free and enslaved Black Americans in colonial Wallingford, Meriden and Cheshire.
The program “Enslaved Wallingford: The Missing Chapter of our American Narrative,” featuring scholar Chris Menapace, is slated for 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, virtually and in person in the Wallingford Public Library’s Community Room.
Menapace, a Middletown resident, is an educator and independent researcher of northern enslavement. He holds a master’s degree in public history from Central Connecticut State University, and is the vice president of the Wallingford Historic Preservation Trust.
Menapace became involved with the Wallingford Historic Preservation Trust when he was hired as an independent researcher for the Black Stories Matter project, which traces the lives of free and enslaved Black people from the town’s founding in 1620 into the early 1800s, at the cusp of freedom, and into their lives once they become free.
The Black Stories Matter project began in August of last year, after the national reckoning with race in its historic and modern context began with the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis by a white police officer on May 25, 2020.
Jerry Farrell Jr., president of the Wallingford Historic Preservation Trust, said in a statement that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic gave the Wallingford Historic Preservation Trust the “creative pause” for a reinterpretation of the trust’s historic properties.
“With Wallingford’s 350th celebration postponed to 2022,” Farrell said, “the trust has embarked on the Black Stories Matter history project to provide the colonial history of a significant population of free and enslaved Black Americans in Meriden and Wallingford who were responsible for building the prosperity of our towns, a chapter that has heretofore remained unexplored in our written history.”
The Wallingford Historic Preservation Trust oversees three historic properties in Wallingford, all of which have ties to New England slavery — the Nehemiah Royce House, built in 1672, the Franklin Johnson Mansion, 1866, and the Yale Homestead, 1790, which traces its origins to Yale University benefactor and namesake Elihu Yale and his family’s ties to the East Indian slave trade.
The Yale Homestead, once located on Route 5 near what is now Home Depot, is currently in several pieces and remains in storage.
Elihu Yale has been in the news recently. A painting depicting Yale, his family and an enslaved Black child went back on display this month at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven.
The museum removed the painting from display a year ago to conduct a technical analysis, including efforts to identify the child, as well as to confirm the identities of the others in the portrait— painted between 1719 and 1721, the year of Yale’s death, instead of 1708, as originally thought.
Although Elihu Yale was born in Boston, Massachusetts, he left for England with his parents at three years old and never returned to America. …….