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Champion for Freedom: The Reverend Alexander Heritage Newton Story at New Haven Museum



New Haven, Conn. (May 10, 2024) – In honor of Juneteenth, New Haven Museum will partner with Connecticut’s Old State House and Connecticut Freedom Trail to premiere the documentary, “Champion for Freedom: The Reverend Alexander Heritage Newton Story,” with preservationist and activist Dolly Marshall at Connecticut’s Old State House, 800 Main St., Hartford, on Saturday, June 15, 2024, at 1 p.m. Register here. The free NH250 event will include introductory remarks by John Mills, an independent scholar and president of the Alex Breanne Corporation. The Q&A will be led by Andre Keitt, Black narratives consultant for the Connecticut Freedom Trail. Refreshments will be provided by Hartford’s Fire by Forge.


The short documentary was inspired by Newton’s autobiography and how his early life in the South influenced his activism during the struggle for freedom and equality. Born of a free mother and enslaved father, Newton became deeply involved in the abolitionist movement as a young man and championed anti-slavery causes.


The film also features his enlistment in the 29th Connecticut Colored Infantry Regiment, in New Haven, to which the Newton family had migrated. Alexander wrote an autobiography, “Out of the Briars,” during his later years in New Jersey and gave detailed recollections of many historical events.


After moving to New Haven in 1860, Alexander’s mother, Mary, raised money to free his father, Thaddeus. Mary sold ice cream and fruit from a cart and washed the clothes of soldiers at Criscuolo Park, where the 29th Regiment was billeted, and was able to save $100 to take out a $300 mortgage on a home on Winter Street in in 1863. Thaddeus was a trustee for Bethel AME Church. Thaddeus died in 1868, and Mary remained in New Haven until her death in 1904. Both are both buried at Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven. 


Most importantly, Marshall notes, “Champion for Freedom” underscores ways African Americans developed agency over their lives and the courageous actions they took to fulfill their potential. The documentary concludes with discussion on the importance of preserving African American heritage sites, their legacies, and ways to inspire the younger generation. “I believe storytelling has the power to be transformative,” Marshall says. “I hope visitors will come to appreciate how telling stories through cemetery preservation relates to our collective history and helps amplify voices of those left out of the historical narrative.”


Mills will provide an overview of Connecticut's role in the Civil War and the series of events that led up to the creation of the 29th Connecticut Colored Regiment. A descendant of the enslaved, Mills believes a deeper understanding of history and the presentation of the personal ties of our descendants can help build bridges of understanding and create better communication. His non-profit, Alex Breanne Corporation, is working to repair the Newton headstone and name a New Haven-street corner "Thaddeus & Mary Newton Avenue."



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