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Six out of seven immigrants to the New World in the 300 years before the American Revolution were enslaved Africans, according to historian Garry Nash. Their experience, and the neglected core of U.S. history that they represent, will be the subject of a conference July 25-28 at Yale. “Slavery and Freedom in New England” is sponsored by Yale’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition. The forum is part of the United Nations’ Transatlantic Slave Education Project. “This formative dimension of American life,” Gilder Lehrman Center Associate Director Robert Forbes said, “remains little emphasized, imperfectly understood and poorly supported with materials.” Why Connecticut? Connecticut was the last New England state to abolish slavery, in 1848. On the positive side, Connecticut was also the site of the Amistad incident, which former President John Quincy Adams argued successfully before the U.S. Supreme Court. The liberated slaves from the ship La Amistad, Adams noted, were under the protection of the state of Connecticut. It was a case in which state’s rights protected slaves from the federal government, made famous in recent years by the Steven Spielberg movie “Amistad.” Nine years before slavery ended in Connecticut, 53 Africans overpowered the crew of the Spanish slave ship La Amistad. They were captured near Long Island and brought to trial for mutiny and murder in what is now the Old State House. Court sessions were also held in New Haven. After the trial, the freed slaves lived in Farmington. They worked and lived in Farmington. Eventually, 38 survivors raised enough money to return to Africa. Dr. David Brion Davis, Pulitzer-Prize winning historian for “The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture” and director of the Gilder Lehrman Center, is among about 15 workshop presenters. Davis has argued that without the Civil War, slavery would have lasted well into the 20th century. His talk will touch on the degree of control of the U.S. government by slaveholders. Last year, three Yale doctoral students published a paper linking the university’s founders and early presidents to the slave trade. Eight of Yale’s 10 residential colleges, for example, are named for slave owners. Hartford’s Aetna Insurance Co. became the target of a lawsuit filed this year by descendants of slaves. Aetna insured slave owners against the death of slaves. Aetna apologized for insuring slaves but opposes reparations because slavery was legal at the time. FleetBoston Financial Corporation is also a target of the suit because the president of a bank eventually taken over by Fleet was a slave trader who continued the business even after it was made illegal. Other presenters at the Yale workshop include: � Dr. David Blight, professor of African American Studies and History at Amherst College, who will discuss why the Civil War was fought. � Jennifer Wood-Nangombe of Yale’s African American Studies Department, who will discuss the historical evidence of slavery in Connecticut. � Dr. James Horton, Benjamin Banneker Professor of American Studies and History at George Washington University, who will discuss the politics of slavery in the 1850′s. � Documentary filmmaker Katrina Browne, who investigated her wealthy New England ancestors, the largest slave-trading family in early America. � Author and genealogist Pearl Duncan, who found her family’s roots in slavery by following a trail of nicknames, slave ship records and DNA to Ghana and Jamaica. � Public school educators from New Haven, New London, Norwalk and Newtown who have implemented aspects of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in their systems’ courses of study. The conference also features a stop to a bed and breakfast in Brooklyn in eastern Connecticut, which served as a haven for abolitionists in the 19th century. “Friendship Valley,” now known as Brooklyn Bed & Breakfast, was the home of George Benson and his sister Helen, who married famed abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison in the parlor in 1834. Their great-great-great grandson, Frank Garrison, will join the group for tea.

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