By Danny Contreras
February is a special month for all Americans as we honor the history and culture of African Americans. It’s a bittersweet remembrance as we are still haunted by the ghosts of slavery and Jim Crow Laws. But African American culture is strong, and persistent; after all, it is a history marked with oppression and the struggle for liberation. Yet, it has undeniably flourished over the United States’ 23- year history.
It is no secret that during the reparation years following the Great War, African Americans struggled greatly in the south. Following the Great Migration, more African Americans settled into the northern states, forever changing their history. Connecticut was one of these states and it has provided African Americans with a vital part of their history. The following list is a compilation of historic Connecticut-born African Americans.
Edward Alexander Bouchet (1852-1918): Born in New Haven in 1874, Bouchet became the first African American to graduate from Yale College. More importantly, in 1876 he received his Ph.D. in physics from Yale, becoming the first ever African American to obtain a doctorate degree.
Ann Plato (1824-unknown): Born in Hartford, Plato was an author and teacher. She was the second African American woman to publish a book in America, and the first to publish a book of essays and poetry. Her legacy lives on through Trinity College, who present the Ann Plato Fellowship to their students.
Alan T. Busby (?-1992): Busby was the first African American graduate of the University of Connecticut back in 1918. He participated in the first World War and spent 50 years teaching. He worked at a farm to cover his $290 tuition bill.
Thirman Milner (1933- ): Milner marched with MLK. He served as a state senator and was New England’s first elected African American mayor. He served from 1981- 1987. With an impressive resume, including working as the director of communications for CRT and deputy commissioner of community in New York, he recently published an essays book titled “Up From Slavery.” He currently resides in Albany Avenue, Hartford.
August Wilson (1942-2005): Born in New Haven, August Wilson did not finish high school, yet he has won two Pulitzer Prizes for his plays depicting African Americans. Though he passed away in 2005, his plays live on. In fact, his “The Pittsburgh Cycles” was showcased at CCSU in the Spring of 2011.
Marcus Camby (1974- ): Hailing from Hartford, Camby currently plays for the New York Knicks. He graduated from Hartford Public High School and played three seasons with the UMass Minutemen. In 1996, the Toronto Raptors drafted Camby. He played three seasons with the Canadian team. He is also a four-time NBA Blocks Leader and a recipient of the John R. Wooden Award for “Player of the Year.”