Current Projects

Project: West Indian Exhibit

Partner: West Indian Social Club

In 2010, West Indians surpassed all other ethnic groups to become the largest population of foreign-born immigrants in Connecticut. This demographic trend was eight decades in the making, with the original kernel of this population arriving as guest workers in the Hartford region in the 1940s through bilateral labor agreements between British West Indian colonies and the United States. By the time these war-time labor opportunities appeared, a significant West Indian population had settled in New York and Florida. In Connecticut, the draw was primarily the tobacco industry which benefited from the labor distributed through the industrial and agricultural concessions made for war-time. The diaspora of West Indian laborers established a post-emancipation labor tradition that created new spaces to recast and renegotiate the labor of black men and later, women. Some of these guest workers married African-American women, forming a nascent West Indian community. Facing discrimination, they founded their own social, religious and athletic organizations as autonomous cultural spaces and networks beginning with the West Indian Social Club in 1950, followed by the Caribbean American Society, the Barbados American Society, the Trinidad & Tobago American Society, the Jamaica Progressive League, the St Lucia American Society and the Cricket Hall of Fame among others. This exhibit explores the rich tapestry of West Indian immigration narratives about belonging, heritage, place-making and identity-formation in Connecticut. Through oral histories and local community archives, the exhibit recounts stories about community formation and succession that are at once personal and collective, universal and kaleidoscopic, revelatory yet still often unknown beyond Hartford.

Project: Housing Exhibition
Partner: Hartford Public Library

“From Civil Rights to Human Rights” explores the evolution of Hartford as a Puerto Rican, West Indian, and African American city. Drawing on oral histories, census records, reports of the Hartford Housing Authority, and archival sources, the exhibit explores patterns of migration and settlement in post WWII Hartford that transformed the demographic profile of the city. Panels explore themes such as the rise of public housing, suburbanization, urban renewal, home ownership, gentrification, and educational inequities in one of the most residentially-segregated American cities in the 20th century. The exhibit concludes with a profile of tenant activism in Hartford through the “No More Slumlords movement as housing reemerges as a major arena for civil rights and human rights advocacy.

Project: Hartford Bound: Mapping African American, Puerto Rican, and West Indian Migration and Settlement in Hartford

Partner: Greenhouse Studios

Between 1940 and 2020, thousands of African Americans, West Indians, and Puerto Ricans made Connecticut their home. These migrations, epic and mundane, redrew the demographic landscape of major urban hubs throughout the United States like Miami, Boston, New York, and Hartford. Some people came for a job, to follow a loved one, to pursue their dreams, for adventure, or to escape natural disasters. Hartford Bound visualizes these three Great Migration traditions as they converged in Hartford and transformed the city into a Black and Brown space, and a Caribbean enclave. The maps explore how decisions of potential neighbors, courts, banks, developers, municipal government, employers, and housing authorities shaped the places where African Americans, Puerto Ricans, and West Indians could live, work, and attend school. Hartford Bound offers new visual and spatial narratives for understanding the relationship between immigration, migration, mobility, claim-making, heritage, place-making and identity-formation in Connecticut.