Keynote Speaker

Lucien Lafreniere

"The Sword of Truth - Understanding Abolition in Connecticut"


Connecticut has long been remembered as a progressive state and a bastion of pro-abolition sentiment in collective memory. However, research by historians such Dr. Matthew Warshauer and Dr. Joanne Pope Melish reveal a state deeply divided on the issues of race and slavery. Murkier still, research on abolition in Connecticut is typically focused on the activism of the 1830s and onward, but there were less than twenty-five slaves in the state at this point and the fate of the peculiar institution had been decided long before.

 The research in this presentation focuses primarily on the first generation of Connecticut abolitionists. These individuals advocated for an end to slavery prior to the American Revolution, oversaw the passing and initial implementation of the Gradual Emancipation Act of 1784, and formed alliances for the development of the ever-growing community of free African Americans within the state. This research attempts to answer two fundamental questions: One, who were these abolitionists? Two, what effect did they have on the course of slavery and racial equality in Connecticut? The answers to these questions reveal a complicated path through the early history of our state.



Lucien Lafreniere is a graduate student completing his Masters Thesis at Central Connecticut State University. Lucien’s research focuses primarily on abolition and the influence this movement had on society, politics, and law from the colonial era up to the Civil War. Lucien is also a Captain with the Waterbury Fire Department and a Marine Corps veteran who served overseas. He currently lives in Prospect with his wife and two daughters.