Contact:

Margaret Anne Tockarshewsky, Executive Director, New Haven Museum

203-562-4183, ext. 120, matockarshewsky@newhavenmuseum.org

Julie Winkel, Media Specialist,                                                                                                             

203-815-0800, jwinkel@live.com        

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Champion for Freedom: The Reverend Alexander Heritage Newton Story

at New Haven Museum

New Haven, Conn. (May 10, 2024) – In honor of Juneteenth, New Haven Museum will partner with Connecticut’s Old State House and Connecticut Freedom Trail to premiere the documentary, “Champion for Freedom: The Reverend Alexander Heritage Newton Story,” with preservationist and activist Dolly Marshall at Connecticut’s Old State House, 800 Main St., Hartford, on Saturday, June 15, 2024, at 1 p.m. Register here. Thanks to a grant awarded by Connecticut Humanities, the free NH250 event will include introductory remarks by John Mills, an independent scholar and president of the Alex Breanne Corporation. The Q&A will be led by Andre Keitt, Black narratives consultant for the Connecticut Freedom Trail. Refreshments will be provided by Hartford’s Fire by Forge.

The short documentary was inspired by Newton’s autobiography and how his early life in the South influenced his activism during the struggle for freedom and equality. Born of a free mother and enslaved father, Newton became deeply involved in the abolitionist movement as a young man and championed anti-slavery causes. 

The film also features his enlistment in the 29th Connecticut Colored Infantry Regiment, in New Haven, to which the Newton family had migrated. Alexander wrote an autobiography, “Out of the Briars,” during his later years in New Jersey and gave detailed recollections of many historical events. 

After moving to New Haven in 1860, Alexander’s mother, Mary, raised money to free his father, Thaddeus. Mary sold ice cream and fruit from a cart and washed the clothes of soldiers at Criscuolo Park, where the 29th Regiment was billeted, and was able to save $100 to take out a $300 mortgage on a home on Winter Street in in 1863. Thaddeus was a trustee for Bethel AME Church. Thaddeus died in 1868, and Mary remained in New Haven until her death in 1904. Both are both buried at Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven. 

Most importantly, Marshall notes, “Champion for Freedom” underscores ways African Americans developed agency over their lives and the courageous actions they took to fulfill their potential. The documentary concludes with discussion on the importance of preserving African American heritage sites, their legacies, and ways to inspire the younger generation. “I believe storytelling has the power to be transformative,” Marshall says. “I hope visitors will come to appreciate how telling stories through cemetery preservation relates to our collective history and helps amplify voices of those left out of the historical narrative.”

Mills will provide an overview of Connecticut’s role in the Civil War and the series of events that led up to the creation of the 29th Connecticut Colored Regiment. A descendant of the enslaved, Mills believes a deeper understanding of history and the presentation of the personal ties of our descendants can help build bridges of understanding and create better communication. His non-profit, Alex Breanne Corporation, is working to repair the Newton headstone and name a New Haven-street corner “Thaddeus & Mary Newton Avenue.”

About Dolly L. Marshall 

Marshall is an award-winning historian, preservationist and activist. She is also a researcher, genealogist and lecturer. She leads many community partnerships related to African American experiences and the African diaspora, bringing the history to life for the public. She is the historic preservation specialist for the City of Camden, New Jersey, a trustee of Mount Peace Cemetery Association, and volunteers her time as a docent at the New Jersey State House. She is a member of the Association of Black Women Historians, the National Council of Negro Women, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Association for the Study of African American Life & History. Her work has received numerous accolades, including the “Women in American History Award” from the Daughters of the American Revolution, an award of recognition from the New Jersey Historical Commission and a public service award from the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia. 

About John Mills

Mills is a genealogist, independent scholar, and a descendant of the enslaved. As the founder of Alex Breanne Corporation, a Connecticut-based non-profit, he focuses on research, interrogation and presentation on of lesser-known stories representing the life experiences of the American enslaved presented from an African American perspective. His goal is to honor the forgotten, as well as to apply critical thinking to history to find solutions to issues today. 

About Andre Keitt

Keitt has served as community outreach program specialist for both Hartford Public Library and Dallas Public Library, and as program director for community and economic development at The Greater Hartford Arts Council, where he co-created a new arts district. For 10 years he was a host/producer of the Emmy-award winning public affairs television on WVIT, “Black Perspective.“ He has been a member of the Black Caucus American Library Association, and a teaching artist and literacy activity leader for students and the arts and humanities institutions in the Hartford area. In 2023 he took on the role of Black narratives consultant with Connecticut Freedom Trail.

About Connecticut’s Old State House

Located in downtown Hartford, Connecticut’s Old State House is the restored 1796-1878 State Capitol building that today serves as the place where history and civics meet.  Part museum and part gathering place, Connecticut’s Old State House hosts visitors from across the state  and around the world for tours, public programs and special events that inspire people of all ages to engage in civic life and strengthen their communities.  Connecticut’s Old State House is managed as a public-private partnership between the Connecticut General Assembly and The Connecticut Democracy Center.  For more information, follow @CTOldStateHouse on Facebook, X, Instagram or YouTube, or visit ctoldstatehouse.org.

About Connecticut Freedom Trail

Since 1995, the Connecticut Freedom Trail (CFT) has commemorated the fight for emancipation from slavery, honoring the courageous African Americans who paved the way for future generations. CFT includes a diverse range of locations, including Underground Railroad’s safe houses, sites associated with the Amistad case of 1839, and the Civil Rights Movement’s sites, gravesites, monuments, homes, and other structures. Each site is carefully documented and designated to ensure future generations remember the remarkable stories of those who fought for freedom and human dignity.There are over 160 CFT sites in more than 70 towns, with a goal to designate at least one site in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.

About Connecticut Humanities

Connecticut Humanities (CTH) is an independent, nonprofit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. CTH connects people to the humanities through grants, partnerships, and collaborative programs. CTH projects, administration, and program development are supported by state and federal matching funds, community foundations and gifts from private sources. Learn more by visiting cthumanities.org.

About NH250

This event is part of NH250, an ongoing series of programming developed by New Haven Museum to complement “America 250.” Culminating with the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the series will highlight inclusive, local, and lesser-known stories, connecting past and present. 

About the New Haven Museum

The New Haven Museum has been collecting, preserving and interpreting the history and heritage of Greater New Haven since its inception as the New Haven Colony Historical Society in 1862. Located in downtown New Haven at 114 Whitney Avenue, the Museum brings more than 375 years of New Haven history to life through its collections, exhibitions, programs and outreach. As a Blue Star Museum, the New Haven Museum offers the nation’s active-duty military personnel and their families, including National Guard and Reserve, free admission all year. For more information visit http://newhavenmuseum.org  or @NewHavenMuseum or call 203-562-4183.

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