The Witness Stones Project began in Guilford, Connecticut, in 2017 with a partnership between educators, historians, and local non-profits. It is designed to be brought to other communities who have had a history of slavery. This is accomplished through educational activities and community support. The project uses the Five Themes of Slavery: dehumanization, treatment, paternalism, economics, and slavery/resistance as well as shared research using primary documents. For this project to be brought to your community, local research is necessary. This research is often available through municipal historians, historical societies, local libraries, probate courts, town/city clerks offices (property records), and other historians or researchers who have studied slavery in your community.
The Witness Stones Project will hold teacher training workshops for communities/school districts. This will familiarize educators with the types of materials needed, how to facilitate student analysis of resources, and how to prepare student instruction for both the Jigsaw activity as well as the Biographical Sketch.
If you are a teacher, please consider taking the following steps to decide whether the Witness Stones Project will work in your community:
- Click through the website and view the components of the project. Especially look at our Learning page.
- Discuss with fellow grade level teachers in social studies and language arts to gauge who would be onboard to develop the project in your school.
- Meet with educational/building leaders to ensure their support as you continue the process.
- Set up a meeting with your municipal historian and/or historical society to discuss the history of slavery in your community and what materials are available about enslaved individuals. Also, inquire if the historians and/or historical societies would be willing to support an in-school and public project regarding slavery in your community.
- Engage stakeholders in your community such as members of African American organizations, clergy, community foundations, and other organizations that may provide needed input, support, and funds.
If you are a local historian and or a member of a local historical society, please consider taking the following steps to start the Witness Stones Project in your community:
- Determine if slavery existed in your community during colonial or early American periods. This can be done most easily using the 1790 U.S. Census, or one of the various extant colonial censuses. Regardless of whether or not your town was incorporated by the time slavery substantially ended in New England, village or parish records could show slavery and slave ownership in your local area.
- Talk to the social studies coordinator or department head at your public schools and see where slavery fits into the scope and sequence of the curriculum. Contact specific teachers and administrators that you have partnered with in the past to find an entryway into the schools.
- Get the support of historical societies, funders, members of the local African American community, and other community leaders to bring the project to your community.
- Talk to other local stakeholders to invite them to contribute to the project through participation in the planning, fundraising, and/or installation ceremony.
Parents/Community Members –
If you are a parent of school-aged students or a community member who believes that slavery should be remembered and thoughtfully acknowledged in your community, a three-pronged approach is suggested:
- Contact your local historians and/or historical societies and determine their interest in organizing this project in your town. They often have contacts with history/social studies teachers and department heads who are already doing meaningful work using primary documents about slavery and African American history. (Slavery was widespread in Connecticut during the colonial and early American periods. However, there are some towns that have been incorporated, especially during and after the Industrial Revolution, that might not have evidence of slavery. Local historians can share their understanding of whether your town or the parish or village predating its incorporation, included the enslavement of others.)
- Find teachers and or administrators (upper middle school or high school suggested) who are interested in having students do meaningful work that restores the history of the community by uncovering the stories about those enslaved locally.
- Share this project and our website with other members of your community including the following: clergy, board of education members, members of the local African American community, and members of funding organizations. This will build momentum and clarify whether you can gain widespread support and what challenges you may have to overcome in your Community.
The Witness Stones Project is a school/community-based project to restore the history of local colonial and early America slavery. The Witness Stones Team would enjoy working with you to bring this project to your town.
Please Contact Us to begin discussions about getting started.