During the closing moments of our winter term, our class made a great discovery about the specific location of a resourceful UGRR agent to our immediate south. As we were trying to find documented proof of the UGRR traveling through Suffield, we spent a time looking through documents related to Farmington and Hartford. In this search, we discovered Henry Foster, a key agent who operated between David Ruggles (originally of Norwich & famous agent of NYC) and Rev. Osgood (of Springfield, MA). What captured our attention most was Foster’s resourcefulness. Self emancipated Africans arrived off the New York boat at the Hartford landing, and Foster found them in the crowd. This daylight connection helped us demystify the mythology of “concealment” and “hidden passages” of the UGRR and renforced the idea that the UGRR was indeed a network of safe houses apart of a longer chain or track. In the case of William Green and James L. Smith, Henry Foster brought the fugitives home to his residence on Bliss Street, and then he would canvass the neighborhood for funding the trip to Springfield. Today’s Trinity Street paves the old “Bliss Street” of 19th century Hartford, and there is no historical marker sign to lead to Foster’s story of courage and assistance. Foster also embodied what we learned about the UGRR in that more than we knew African-Americans were involved in an above ground network. Before we left for spring break vacation, we kept asking the question: Why?
We captured the steps of our research on Twitter that proved Foster’s residence on Bliss Street (again, now Trinity Street in downtown Hartford). Please checkout the “18” tweets on our classroom Twitter account on February 24th: @bsullivan35
Though someone suggested that we should have spaced it out to create more suspense in our narrative (we will next time!), we did create a good visual thread of the research steps along our project based learning journey. Given that a project based learning class shares what it learns and shows how it learned something, Twitter was an interesting and efficient way for us to express our discovery into narrative form before departing for spring break. We can also reflect on these research methods when we resume our investigation at the start of the spring term.
Please share any thoughts you may have about establishing a historical marker sign for Foster or any of our project based learning steps.