A Consideration for Adding Henry Foster’s Residence as an UGRR Site on the Connecticut Freedom Trail

The American Studies class at Suffield Academy has been investigating Underground Railroad activity in our town for the past since December. The Connecticut Freedom Trail sites have been very informative and beneficial in our search. Our goal for this school year was to identify an Underground Railroad site in Suffield; however, we quickly learned that it was a complex and an ongoing process. In the course of our investigation we have reviewed hundreds of documents pertaining to abolitionist and anti-slavery activity in the greater Hartford area. In this process of review, we came across documents and articles pertaining to Henry Foster, 1850s resident of Bliss Street. Today we believe the street is on Trinity Street near the State Capitol. We have provided them in a series of slides to better illustrate our research and conclusions.

Henry Foster was a noteworthy find for us because we discovered him through three important Connecticut historians who have examined the Underground Railroad: Horatio Strothers and Diane McCain. From their work we were able to identify Henry Foster as an abolitionist and major contributor to the Underground Railroad in the greater Hartford area and wondered if he aided fugitives through Suffield on the way to Springfield. He was known for connecting runaway slaves with northern conductors, and he also worked with David Ruggles of New York City. Graham Russell Hodges, a foremost expert on David Ruggles, identifies the activist Ruggles as “a prototype for anti-slavery journalists of his time.” So we were impressed and wondered often about the possible relationship between Foster and Ruggles.

Though the goal of our class was to identify a site here in Suffield, we feel compelled to share what we learned about this unmarked site. With the documentation we have found and after comparing the site of Fosters home to other sites marked on the CT Freedom Trail, we believe this site in downtown Hartford is worthy of designation.

We are looking forward to the progression of this application as we wrap up our studies on the Underground Railroad in Connecticut. We gave a successful community program last week: https://digitalcrowsnest.wordpress.com/2014/05/07/american-studies-2014-presentation-of-the-ugrr-in-the-suffield-area/ We’re also hosting another program this Saturday: https://digitalcrowsnest.wordpress.com/2014/05/13/may-17th-10am-installation-program-in-the-old-center-cemetery/
We look forward to providing you with anything else you may need for review. Please feel free to contact our teacher, Bill Sullivan: bsullivan@suffieldacademy.org

The 2013-14 American Studies Class.

About Bill Sullivan

I am an English teacher working with great students at Suffield Academy. I also teach seniors in various project-based learning environments. Some of the #PBL topics included global issues, such as Pandemics, Climate Change, and Water; more recently I have asked students to research and identify topics important to our school community and their generation. We curate these topics with a #StudentCenteredPBL. For the past eleven years, I also created a driving question for a class to research a local history mystery and present their findings in a community program partnering with our local historical society. These topics encompass researching the lives of enslaved individuals who were contributors to the foundation of our community.
This entry was posted in 21st Century Learning, American Studies, Local History, Project Based Learning, Underground Railroad. Bookmark the permalink.

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