Little Liberia (first referred to as Ethiope, then known as Liberia in the 1800s), was a prosperous community of free people of color. Research suggests that Little Liberia’s African and Native American residents sought to establish a free city for people of color - on American soil - during slavery in Connecticut and the United States. Little Liberia’s residents were outspoken advocates for human rights; and like-minded free people of color from around the country, indeed around the Atlantic, joined this community, visited, and invested there. A letter about the community was written to Frederick Douglass, and published in his newspaper! Read the letter here, or the whole page on which it appeared on September 8, 1854.
“The Frederick Douglass Letter”
Read the Article
The delegation of men who represented Little Liberia played a major role at Connecticut State Colored Conventions. They were officers; and co-authored statements, brochures, and appeals to the government, often with Rev. Amos G. Beman. Read their powerful words below. These Bridgeport residents were part of a sweeping national movement of free “people of color.” Colored Convention conferees were abolitionists, the architects and strategists of the Underground Railroad. They led the battle to end slavery, achieve voting rights, and more. Later these leaders fought for women’s suffrage and discussed international matters. A very early State convention was held in Little Liberia in 1841 or before, but records of proceedings have not surfaced. You will find Little Liberians George W. Francis, Leonard Collins, J. Emery Burr, Charles Hubbard, Philander Pitts, William Allen, Tunis Green, Henry Davis, and J. Demming named as members of Bridgeport delegations. Little Liberians participated in National Conventions as well. For more information on the Colored Convention Movement visit the Colored Conventions Project. https://coloredconventions.org/
Proceedings of the Connecticut State Convention of Coloured Men, Held at New Haven, On the September 12th and 13th, 1849.
Regarding Bishop Alexander Walters and
Little Liberia’s Walter’s Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church
Some parishioners of Little Liberia’s Zion A.M.E. Church chose to remain affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and eventually moved to a location outside of Little Liberia - today’s Bethel A.M.E. Church. Others decided to stay, and chose to affiliate with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Much later they renamed their Church in honor of Bishop Alexander Walters; Walters Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church remains in Bridgeport’s South End today.
Bishop Walters was a speaker at the Pan-African Conference advertised below. No stranger to London, he had already addressed an audience of 40,000 people a decade earlier. Bishop Walters delivered his opening address, “The Trials and Tribulations of the Coloured Race in America.” Oddly enough, Bishop Walters did not include the text of this address in the chapter on the conference in his autobiography. Instead, he included that of an attendee ten years his junior - “Address to the Nations of the World,” by W.E.B. Dubois.
The chair was taken by the most distinguished participant, Bishop Alexander Walters, a leader of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States and the president of the National Afro-American Council. The vice-chairmen were representatives of independent African states: Frederick Johnson, former attorney-general of Liberia, and the Haitian Benito Sylvain, aide-de-camp to the Ethiopian emperor. Also on the platform was Mrs. Jane Rose Roberts, elderly widow of Liberia’s first president.
Fryer, Peter, Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain. Pluto Press, 1984.