Did you know? These 7 Black historical figures have called CT home

These seven Black historical figures changed history and have all called Connecticut home at one time or another.

Read on to learn about inventors, actresses, teachers and activists who changed the state and the country for the better.

Constance Baker Motley

Constance Baker Motley was the first African American woman to argue a case before the state court and to serve as a federal judge.

Constance Baker Motley was the first African American woman to argue a case before the state court and to serve as a federal judge.

Aaron Flaum

Motley was born September 14, 1921 in New Haven, and she was the first African American woman to argue a case before the state court and to serve as a federal judge. She became a lawyer, a U.S. district judge and a state senator for New York and was a key member in the fight for civil rights from the 1940s through the 1960s.

According to her autobiography “Equal Justice Under Law,” Motley didn’t experience overt racism during her youth growing up near Yale University, but experienced it while traveling though Ohio in college. She was made to sit in a train car labeled “colored.” When she gave a speech at a community center, she impressed New Haven philanthropist Clarence Blakeslee so much that he agreed to pay her tuition to Columbia Law School. She then went on to have a storied career, working for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and representing Martin Luther King, Jr. in several cases.

Edward Alexander Bouchet

Edward Alexander Bouchet became the first African American to earn a doctorate degree in the United States.

Edward Alexander Bouchet became the first African American to earn a doctorate degree in the United States.

Contributed /

In 1876, New Haven resident Edward Alexander Bouchet became the first Black person and the sixth person ever to receive a PhD in physics from an American university. Bouchet was born in 1852, and was the youngest child with three older sisters. His father was a freed slave, and his family was active in the abolitionist movement. While he was not the first Black student to enter Yale, he was the first to graduate. Bouchet never married or had any children and went on to teach at Black schools for the rest of his career.

Thirman L Milner

Thirman Milner was the first Black Mayor of Hartford and the first Black mayor in all of New England

Thirman Milner was the first Black Mayor of Hartford and the first Black mayor in all of New England

Jessica Hill / AP

Thirman L. Milner was the first Black mayor of Hartford and the first Black mayor in all of New England. Milner was born in Hartford and pursued a college education at NYU in pharmacy, but after hearing a speech by Martin Luther King Jr., decided to pursue public service. After completing three terms as mayor from 1981 to 1987, he was elected to the Connecticut House of Representatives where he served until 1994. Milner still lives in Hartford where there is now a public elementary and middle school named after him.

Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson was the first Black person to perform with the Metropolitan Opera.

Marian Anderson was the first Black person to perform with the Metropolitan Opera.

/ Hurok Attractions

Marian Anderson lived in Danbury for decades and was one of the most popular opera singers of the 20th century. According to the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame, she was the first Black person to perform with the Metropolitan Opera. Her 1939 Easter Sunday concert was attended by 75,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial and was later hailed as “a defining moment in the history of civil rights in the United States.”

Lewis Howard Latimer

The statue of Lewis Howard Latimer currently standing in front of the Mortor Government Center, in Bridgeport, Conn. Jan. 19, 2017.

The statue of Lewis Howard Latimer currently standing in front of the Mortor Government Center, in Bridgeport, Conn. Jan. 19, 2017.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

Lewis Howard Latimer was an inventor. He lived in Bridgeport, where he was a member of the Bridgeport Scientific Society, and worked for the U.S. Electric Lighting Company. He invented the first carbon filament for the modern incandescent light bulb and worked closely with Alexander Graham Bell, Hiram Maxim and Thomas Edison, who all owe parts of their success to Latimer’s work, according to the Bridgeport Library’s History Center.

Sarah Boone

Sarah Boone was a Black American dressmaker and inventor in New Haven. In 1892, she became the first African-American woman awarded a patent for her invention - the modern day ironing board. She was the daughter of two enslaved parents. She married a freed Black an and moved from North Carolina to Connecticut via the Underground Railroad before the Civil War.

Gwen Reed

Gwen Reed was the daughter of Georgianna Clarke, a single mother who worked as a migrant farmer in Hartford. Clarke educated her daughter while they worked together in the fields, teaching her math and spelling, which allowed Reed to graduate from Hartford Public High School. In 1936, Gwen began work as a secretary for the Charles Gilpin Players, a Black theater troupe. Through that position, she ended up acting in productions such as “The World We Live In,” “Mississippi Rainbow” and “The Emperor Jones,” before becoming the spokesperson for Quaker Oats Company products as “Aunt Jemima.” She was never credited by name in newspapers for the many ads and in-person appearances she made. She was a champion for childhood literacy, regularly reading to children at public libraries and then hosting her own television program “Story Time with Gwen Reed.” She went on to direct and act in many more plays, including “A Raisin in the Sun,” “Rain” and “Purlie Victorious,” the last of which won Reed the Herald Award for best supporting actress, according to Connecticuthistory.org.

sarajane.sullivan@hearstmediact.com, @bysarajane on Twitter