The Connecticut League of History Organization (CLHO) recognized the Wilton Historical Society with an Award of Merit for its project “Finding the Forgotten: The Enslaved of Wilton.” The project serves as a comprehensive look at the history and legacy of enslavement in Wilton during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Based on original research examining town and state records, archival documents, and oral histories, Finding the Forgotten documented 133 enslaved people in Wilton, with an additional 104 enslaved people who had a connection to the community. Research began in 2021 and was conducted by Wilton History Room archivist and researcher Dr. Julie Hughes, who presented her findings during an online lecture in February 2022.
Based off the work done by Hughes, the Society produced a short documentary film exploring slavery in Wilton through the colonial period and into the 1800s, as well as how racism continued to affect the lives of African Americans long after abolition.
The documentary, written and produced by Wilton Historical Society staff members Nick Foster and Allison Sanders, was published in April 2022. It is available to the public alongside other relevant material as part of Finding the Forgotten: Resources for Wilton’s Black History on the Wilton Historical Society website.
The final component of the project comprised a three-day, in-school program, including a Q&A exercise with Society staff and a primary source evaluation exercise, for approximately 300 eighth graders at Wilton’s Middlebrook School.
The project was generously funded by a grant from the Elizabeth Raymond Ambler Trust with additional support from the Duncan Family.
The CLHO Awards of Merit annually recognizes institutions and individuals who demonstrate the highest professional standards and who enhance and further the understanding of history in Connecticut. The CLHO acknowledged the “excellent historical research underpinning the project, as well as the incredibly helpful resources it produced to help aid others in studying the history of enslaved people in Connecticut and beyond…” and noted that the project “not only reflected important research and subject matter, but that it also provided a guide and template for further work in this area.”
The Wilton Historical Society was honored alongside 11 other award recipients from across Connecticut at CLHO’s Awards of Merit Presentation on Tuesday, April 18, at Central Connecticut State University.