Norwich - Free walking tours to highlight African American heritage and prominent 19th century African Americans in Norwich will be held this Saturday and next Saturday to mark Connecticut Freedom Trail Month.
City Historian Dale Plummer will lead the tours, which start at 10 a.m. at Norwich City Hall.
The tours will include the Guy Drock House on Church Street, the African American Sunday School, the old courthouse site, the James L. Smith House, Christ Church and downtown and waterfront sites.
The city recently acquired the Smith House at 59 School St. in a tax foreclosure. Smith was an escaped slave who settled in Norwich and became a successful businessman. He purchased the house and brought his family from Springfield, Mass., to Norwich.
Smith's autobiography described his ordeals in slavery, his escape and his life in Norwich. The Society of the Founders reprinted the 1881 book and has copies for sale at the Leffingwell House Museum for $5.
Plummer said Drock was a blacksmith and a slave held by Capt. Benajah Bushnell in the mid-1700s. In 1759, Bushnell transferred possession of Drock to Sarah Powers, Drock's wife. Plummer said Sarah Drock worked for Bushnell for two years and also paid him an additional unknown sum of money to pay for her husband's freedom.
They later purchased the house on Church Street and a blacksmith shop opposite. The family moved to New Hampshire and eventually "passed" as white.
The African Sunday School started in 1815 on Franklin Street, Plummer said, and became associated with the Second Congregational Church. It was the first Sunday school in eastern Connecticut and was patterned after the Sunday schools for the poor in England.
"Although intended for religious instruction, it focused on literacy in order that the students could read the Bible, and apparently offered other instruction as well," Plummer said.
The school was later integrated, Plummer said.
IF YOU GO
The tours, scheduled for this Saturday and Sept. 21, start at 10 a.m. at Norwich City Hall, 100 Broadway. For information about the tours, contact the city historian's office at (860) 859-5349.