By Gus Witt, Class of 2022, The Foote School
This Witness Stones project was the most challenging and intriguing academic work I have ever done. I knew a bit about slavery in the United States prior to the Witness Stones research, but the new information from this research gave me a distinct perspective and distinct opportunity to learn about topics I wouldn’t be able to absorb as well or even at all in a textbook.
The focus, preparation, and intense workload made this project both enjoyable at some points and demanding at others. I have learned about Lois Tritton’s life and the way she affected her community, and I also have a more general understanding of slavery in that time period, and how even after emancipation the hardships of being a Black person in America were no less prevalent.
I have learned of the meticulous financial process that an enslaved person would go through when they were part of a sale or when they were emancipated, and how the control was never in the hands of the person being sold. Even when Lucy and Lois Tritton were emancipated, they had no jurisdiction over the situation.
I have learned about people like Frederick Douglass, an influential abolitionist who was not afraid to speak harshly and with condemnation concerning slavery, while knowingly jeopardizing his freedom and livelihood. I also learned about people like John Nicholl, who saw other human beings as an investment and a way for people like him to profit.
Slavery remained in Connecticut and was not abolished (though restricted) for longer than in any other state in New England. In 1784, Connecticut passed an act ensuring that no enslaved woman born in America after March 1st, 1784, could continue to be enslaved after age 21. However, this did not apply to Lois Tritton because she was born in Nova Scotia, Canada. As a class we read a book called To Be A Slave by Julius Lester, which included quotes from enslaved and formerly enslaved people, stories of brutal beatings, and as well as the authors own experience with racism and segregation.
I know I not only was given information but also understood and comprehended its meaning and why it was significant, because of the way I was able to put together often broken pieces of a story or circumstance. This was an incredible story to research, and an opportunity to use the skills I have been getting better at all year.