Lonnie Braxton honored for his Black History Month displays
New London ― Year after year Lonnie Braxton has devoted his time to creating a Black History Month display each February at the city’s public library.
Braxton said the display this year was the hardest one he’s had to do.
This one, using postcards, figurines, dolls and houseware from his own collection, the display depicts how Black people have been portrayed over the years.
He said many of the items, such as Mammy jars, were commonly sold at local five and dime shops when he was a kid and now he sees them as quite disturbing.
The items depict sterotypical portrayals of Black Americans with dark skin and exaggerated features. One shows a baby sitting on a watermelon.
“This is how a majority of the country saw its fellow Americans,” he said.
The City Council recognized Black History Month by honoring Braxton during its Monday meeting for his contributions to the city.
Braxton, a retired state prosecutor and historian in New London, grew up in the segregated south in Greenville, Mississippi and finds it important to share past Black experiences so they are not forgotten.
Braxton retired as senior assistant state’s attorney for juvenile matters in 2021. Previous to that he was a housing prosecutor and line prosecutor. He has played a pivotal role in curating the Black Heritage Trail in the city and speaks often at colleges and events about Black history.
Council President Reona Dyess said she loves seeing Braxton’s displays every year which he has done for about 16 years.
Mayor Michael Passero awarded him a certificate of recognition.
“You have done incredible work in our city and have made lasting positive change in our community. Through trials and tribulations you have preserved and continue to be a pillar of strength and leadership in the African-American community and greater New London,” Passero read from the certificate.
“I’m truly humbled,” Braxton said, adding he turns 75 years old in three days and there is no greater gift than being recognized for his work. He recalled how he arrived in New London in 1968 with “nothing but a dream, 156 bucks and a lot of hope.”
“I love this place and its nice to find out they love me back,” he said.
Every year Braxton also hosts a Black History Film Festival at the Public Library of New London. The festival starts Friday with a showing of “Till’, a movie about Emmett Till’s lynching in 1955, at 6:30 p.m. in the community room.