Inspiring Trailblazers

Welcome to the latest issue of CTExplored/Inbox, your bi-weekly newsletter from Connecticut Explored with the latest stories, the newest Grating the Nutmeg podcast, programs and exhibitions from our partners to see/watch this month, and more! 

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Summer 2021: City, Village, Neighborhood — Home

This summer, we’re celebrating those places we live in and love with stories from Norwalk to Norwich and Chester to (the lost village of) Chalybes

In this Inbox, we’re back in New Haven and Hartford with stories about two trailblazers who were driven to make a difference.

The Reverend Richard A. G. Foster’s Unheralded Sojourn in New Haven

In the Summer 2021 issue, educator Dr. Benjamin Foster Jr. tells the story of his relative, Rev. Richard A. G. Foster, who came to New Haven in the 1940s to lead the city’s historic Varick Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church, founded in 1818. Rev. Foster followed others from North Carolina’s rural tobacco-growing areas who had come to New Haven for defense jobs in World War II.

Foster had been chosen by Bishop William J. Walls because of his skills and abilities to, as Benjamin Foster writes, “guide his new flock and assist them in navigating the transition from rural to urban life. Handsome, affable, with a winning smile, and fiercely believing in the equality of all people,” Foster, in fact, ministered to the entire city.

“In 1943 [Rev.] Foster became the second African American elected to New Haven’s board of alders. A Republican, he served three terms representing the 19th ward,”Foster writes. “Using his considerable influence as an alderman, with a growing church and frequent interaction with politicians … Foster helped domestic workers obtain better pay, as Color magazine reported. He secured more than 2,700 jobs for African Americans in the city’s factories and plants, which had not previously hired Black people. He was responsible for the city’s hiring the first African Americans as court clerks and in the police department.”

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Betty Knox and the Greening of Hartford

Elizabeth L. “Betty” Knox was another trailblazer, serving on the Hartford City Council for six two-year terms in the 1950s and early 1960s. “She stood out on the council,” our writer Kevin Flood notes, “not only as a woman, but as a Republican in a Democratic city.”

Knox had been bitten by the politics bug during the campaign for charter reform. Flood writes, “In the years just after the World War II, Hartford politics centered on two words: charter reform. The government at the time was led by a ‘strong’ mayor and a city council whose members were elected from neighborhoods, or wards. Critics called the system outdated and prone to cronyism.” Knox “sat on the Citizens Charter Committee, serving as its vice chair in 1951,” and “remained an ardent defender of the new system for the rest of her life.” [For more about Hartford’s charter reform story, see “Politics of Change: Mayor vs. Manager,” Aug/Sep/Oct 2004.]

Knox is perhaps best known today, though, for her other passion and legacy. “Anyone involved in the civic life of Hartford,” Flood writes, “has likely come across the name Knox, whether in the form of KNOX Inc., an organization that uses “greening” programs to spur community development, or the Betty Knox Foundation, which provides small grants to organizations that help under-served Hartford residents.”

Read the full story with your CTExplored print subscription, OR a CTExplored Inbox/Premium subscription, which gets you access to all stories in every issue for just $30 a year:

Or, subscribe to the print magazine at CTExplored.org/SHOP for $30 a year which includes access to the full issue on our website.

Or try us out with our First One Free offer.

The Latest from Grating the Nutmeg

123. Connecticut Seen: The Photography of Pablo Delano and Jack Delano

Join Mary Donohue, assistant publisher of Connecticut Explored, for a conversation with Pablo Delano, visual artist, photographer ,and professor of fine arts at Trinity College. Delano is the artist behind the new book Hartford Seen (Wesleyan University Press, 2020) and our Summer 2021 photo essay “Visually Breathtaking Hartford Explored.” Delano’s father, Jack Delano, was a renown American New Deal-era photographer for the Farm Security Administration who photographed Connecticut in 1940. Mary and Pablo talk about his father’s emigration as a boy from Russia to the U.S., and as an adult to Puerto Rico where Pablo was born and raised. Find out about Pablo’s cutting edge work combining art and history, “Museum of the Old Colony.”

Programs and Exhibitions to Enjoy This Month

Experience a Whaling Voyage

The longest (in number of feet) painting in North America travels to Mystic Seaport Museum this year, giving armchair travelers a trip around the world on an 1848 whaling voyage. A Spectacle in Motion: The Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World is on view through March 2022. The Azores, Brazil, Pitcairn Island, and Hawaii all appear on this 1,275-foot-long work of art, originally displayed for American audiences as a moving panorama.

Mystic Seaport Museum, Mysticseaport.org

Visit Hartford’s Newest Library Branch

Hartford Public Library’s Park Street Library @ the Lyric branch will be opening its doors this summer! For its grand opening, the Hartford History Center (HHC) at Hartford Public Library (HPL) will host exhibitions that speak to the history and contemporary vibrancy of the neighborhood and greater community. The new 13,000-square-foot neighborhood library will be the largest neighborhood branch in the city.

Hartford Public Library’s Park Street Library @ the Lyric, parklibrary.hplct.org

An Art Explosion to Experience

Raised in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and now residing in Brooklyn, New York, artist Leonardo Drew responds to a longstanding fascination with the life cycle of material decomposition and transformation in his work. In this two-part project on view at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art through December, Drew has planned a site-specific installation—an expansive sculptural work the artist refers to as an “explosion.”

Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Thewadsworth.org

You’re Invited to the Stowe Prize Winner Celebration!

The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center is delighted to honor Dr. Eddie Glaude as the 2021 Stowe Prize winner. Glaude receives the award for Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own (Crown Publishing Group, 2020). Events related to the Stowe Prize will take place all year, culminating with on-site and virtual presentations in September.

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, HarrietBeecherStoweCenter.org

Editors’ Picks

Stories we love from back issues to read now. 

Monument to Black Governors,” Aug/Sep/Oct 2004

Politics of Change: Mayor vs. Manager,” Aug/Sep/Oct 2004

“Are We the Constitution State?” Spring 2005

The Education of Ella Grasso,” Aug/Sep/Oct 2004

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