At Issue – The Legacy of Race and Ethnicity in Connecticut

race and ethnicityJoin Connecticut Humanities in a six-month exploration of the legacy of race and ethnicity in our state. Supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, a variety of programs will take place in West Hartford, New Haven, Stamford, Waterbury and Groton.

Upcoming Programs



“Be Here” is a tag line for a recent initiative by the City of Waterbury and the Waterbury Chamber of Commerce to entice new businesses and people to move to Waterbury. The City has just completed a $2.2 million renovation of the Green in downtown Waterbury, part of an effort to revitalize the downtown and entice new groups of people to the city center.

But who exactly does the city envision being here? National chain stores? College students? What about current downtown residents, bus riders, and business owners? The question is a complex one causing the community to ask itself, “Who should be here?”

Silas Bronson Library, the Urban and Community Studies Program at the University of Connecticut/Waterbury, and Connecticut Humanities will explore the topic through a two-part discussion that looks at issues related to urban development, immigration, and ethnicity and whose voices have, or have not, been heard in planning Downtown Waterbury’s future.

On October 26, 2017, at 5:30 PM, longtime CPTV and WATR host Larry Rifkin will moderate a panel of local scholars and historians who will look at the history of life in downtown Waterbury and address the question of “Who Was Here?” The session will examine immigration patterns, the various ethnic groups who have called downtown Waterbury home, and the changes to the area as the city’s industrial base moved away. Refreshments will be served.

Register for Part I.

On November 2, 2017, also at 5:30 PM, Larry Rifkin returns as a follow up to the October 26th “Who Should Be Here?” event to moderate a public discussion about “Here and Now” that will talk about where the city is today—and where it might go tomorrow. City stakeholders from residents, to public officials, to local merchants, to developers are invited to come and participate in an open dialogue together that allows everyone’s voices to be heard, questions to be asked, and visions discussed. Light refreshments will be provided.

Register for Part II.

Both events will take place at Silas Bronson Library, 267 Grand Street in Waterbury.




Past Programs


Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is southeastern Connecticut’s fifteenth annual “One Book, One Region” community reading choice. Gyasi’s debut novel traces the impact of the slave trade through generations of a single family and illuminates slavery’s horrific legacy and the impacts on those who were enslaved and those who were not.

In eighteenth-century Ghana two half-sisters are born into different villages, each unaware of the other. One will marry an Englishman and lead a life of comfort in the palatial rooms of the Cape Coast Castle. The other will be captured in a raid on her village, imprisoned in the very same castle, and sold into slavery.  Homegoing follows the parallel paths of these sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem.

Book discussions and programs are planned at libraries throughout the summer.  Homegoing has also been chosen for the Connecticut College Summer Read program and the College has sent the book to all incoming first year students. Yaa Gyasi will appear at Connecticut College’s Palmer Auditorium on September 27, at 7:00 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

The goals of One Book, One Region are to bring people together to discuss ideas, to broaden the appreciation of reading and to break down barriers among people. This year’s program is sponsored by Connecticut Humanities, Connecticut College, and private foundations.  For further information, please call the Groton Public Library at 860-441-6750 or go to

West Hartford

Connecticut Humanities partnered with The Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society on a two-part community forum that looked at the history of different races and religions in West Hartford and ways that the community could respond to the issues facing it today. Sessions were moderated by Janet Bauer, anthropologist and Associate Professor of International Studies at Trinity College, and were held at the West Hartford Town Hall Auditorium.

“The Roots of our Relationships” on May 3rd offered historical and global context for current issues surrounding racial issues. Award-winning historian Mary M. Donohue provided the local historical perspective on racial and ethnic groups and immigrants. Rev. Dr. Terry Schmitt, Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Interreligious Understanding, spoke to the history and patterns of religious groups in our community and around the state. Finally, Megan Torey, Executive Director of the World Affairs Council of Connecticut, gave the global context and conditions for immigration as well as an overview of the process faced by successive groups of immigrants.

“Reflect and Respond” on May 10th examined current issues threatening our community’s ethnic and religious diversity and steps citizens could take to get involved and make a difference. Panelists included Mark Overmyer-Velazquez and Jeremy Pressman, University of Connecticut professors and grass-roots organizers, and Victoria Christgau, Founder and Executive Director of the Connecticut Center for Nonviolence.

New Haven

In partnership with the New Haven Free Public Library and the New Haven Museum Connecticut Humanities presented Heather McGhee, a noted media contributor and President of the Demos Foundation, on May 12th at the New Haven Museum. The Foundation is a public policy organization working for an America where all have an equal say in our democracy and an equal chance in our economy. A recognized thought leader on the national stage, McGhee frequently appears on shows such as Meet the Press, Real Time with Bill Maher, and Hardball with Chris Matthews. Her opinions, writing and research have appeared in numerous outlets, including The New York Times, The Nation, and The Hill.

Ms. McGhee was joined in conversation by Frank Mitchell, Executive Director of the Amistad Center for Art and Culture. Together they explored the theme, “Beyond Bigotry: Equity, Democracy and the New American Demos.” A dynamic question and answer segment with the audience finished the afternoon and rounded out the discussion.


The Ferguson Library in Stamford, in partnership with Connecticut Humanities and Everyday Democracy, presented “Dialogue to Change,” a process that will turn community discussion into action. The process will focus on the impact of racism in public education. An introductory session for the public was held on Monday, May 8th at the Library with special programs, training and workshops held over the summer.

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