This Black History Month it’s important to recognize that Black history is woven into the fabric of all American history and that our hometown of Berlin played an important role.
Many point to Martin Luther King, Jr. in the fight for justice and equality in America and can recall a few select lines from his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. What many residents may not know, is that Black history is an important part of Berlin’s own history.
Berlin’s Historical Society has uncovered fascinating details about our rich Abolitionist tradition. Among them is the museum’s prized possession, the Wide Awakes Lantern from 1860. The Wide Awakes were a National movement instrumental in electing Abraham Lincoln and abolishing slavery. Berlin’s club included over 100 townsmen who led lantern-lit parades along with thousands of others in support of their cause.
Two noted Berlin Abolitionists of the time were Milo Hotchkiss and Daniel Galpin, who opened their homes to shelter African Americans fleeing the south as part of the Underground Railroad. The Berlin Equity Action Team held our inaugural Juneteenth celebration last year to commemorate America’s newest National Holiday and Mayor Mark Kaczynski dedicated a proclamation honoring the Hotchkiss home.
Recently, records were uncovered that eight free African-American Berlin men fought in Connecticut’s Colored Troop Regiments during the Civil War. Berlin’s legacy celebrates residents both Black and White who believed no one should own another human being as property. This important history is something all who call Berlin home today should know!
While I cannot illustrate here how deep Berlin’s historical legacy of Black history goes, residents can begin to learn it by visiting the Historical Society. These stories will be the focus of the museum’s seasonal opening on April 15.
Chris Barlow,Berlin Equity Action Team co-founder