The city of New London is creating a Black history heritage walking tour, marking important Black history sites throughout the city.
The walking tour will consist of 15 plaques that tell the stories of prominent people and places in the city's history. The list of sites include New London's waterfront, marking the story of the Amistad. There will also be a marker at the site where Frederick Douglass visited the city and gave four lectures in 1848. Markers can also be found at other locations across the city, including the homes of various civil rights leaders and abolitionists.
The first plaque for the walking trail has already been made. It is dedicated to Ichabod Pease, a formerly enslaved man who, in 1837, established New London's first school for Black children. Pease was 81-years-old and hosted the school in his home. He established the school in the middle of controversy in the city over the abolition of slavery and the education of Black children.
“I didn’t learn about Ichabod Pease. I had no idea the grounds I walked on actually had Black slaves and Black excellence here," said Curtis Goodwin, a New London city councilor who pushed for the project. "If I would have learned about Ichabod Pease earlier in life I would have had a sense of pride because I could have learned about people who looked like me, who were enslaved, who I could relate to in some sense of the word, and they overcame.”
The project will cost about $18,000 and is scheduled to be completed by June of 2021.
According to Felix Reyes, Director of the Office of Development and Planning, the city will apply for a tourism grant to help with marketing for the walking tour. Reyes said that he hopes the walking tour will compliment the other historical landmarks in the city and draw visitors, but he also wants city residents to be able to learn from the tour.
"Having our own residents know our history," said Reyes. “We should always start with ourselves and understanding what our identity is first."
The city is partnering with a nonprofit, New London Landmarks, a group that has already researched hundreds of properties and offered educational programs on New London’s history, according to a presentation made to New London City Council.
Over the next several months, researchers with the group will continue their work and dive into hundreds of pages of public documents to learn more about the various sites.
“Yes, New London is rich in Black history. And, no, that has not been recognized," said Tom Schuch, a researcher for the project. "And that is what we are hoping to change.”