During the past several months, three local churches — Wilton’s St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Norwalk’s St. Paul’s on the Green, and Westport’s Unitarian Universalist Congregation — have collaborated to explore the history of slavery in colonial Connecticut in order to honor the humanity of the enslaved individuals who helped build their communities. The public is invited to join them as the culmination of their work is presented in a ceremony to memorialize the life of one formerly enslaved and later emancipated Wilton man.
In a program specially designed for the three congregations and led by The Witness Stones Project, Inc., middle school youth gathered with community leaders to learn about slavery in New England.
With the assistance of local historian and Wilton archivist Julie Hughes, the group was provided with primary documents from various sources (census information, vital records, church records, and property sale transactions) to analyze the life of specific formerly-enslaved individuals who lived in Connecticut. The project culminated with studying specific documents tied to Norwalk and Wilton regarding John C. Wally, who had been enslaved as “Lazarus” by the Abbott family.
Through deep research and study of such documents, the participating youths gained an understanding of Wally’s life as an enslaved person as well as his own agency, especially upon his emancipation. In the process, they created artwork and narratives about Wally and his family, integrating the five themes of slavery: dehumanization, paternalism, treatment, economics, and agency.
The public is invited to honor John C. Wally as his story is presented — where he lived, worked, and worshipped — on Saturday, June 10 at 4 p.m. at the Wilton Historical Society (224 Danbury Rd.). The ceremony will conclude with the unveiling of his Witness Stone Memorial. All are welcome to this free event.