Little Liberia Descendant to Speak at Housatonic Community College
Fundraiser for the Mary & Eliza Freeman Houses
BRIDGEPORT, May 17, 2017: Keith W. Stokes, vice president of the 1696 Heritage Group, and a descendant of Bridgeport’s pre-Civil War era African-American community, Little Liberia, will come to the city Friday, May 19. He will discuss “Legacies of Slavery & Freedom: A Family Journey through the Atlantic World,” from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Burt Chernow Galleries in Lafayette Hall, Housatonic Community College.
Stokes’ presentation will connect the Little Liberia neighborhood of Bridgeport, CT, with several of the most important historic Places and events in the history and freedom in the Atlantic World, including West Africa, United Kingdom, Jamaica, Philadelphia and Newport, Rhode Island.
Bridgeport’s South End Neighborhood, referred to as Little Liberia, was a seafaring community of free people of color. It boasted a luxurious seaside resort hotel for wealthy Blacks (cited in a letter to Frederick Douglass), the city’s first free lending library, a school for colored children, businesses, fraternal organizations and churches. Of about 36 structures that made up the community, only the houses once owned by sisters Mary and Eliza Freeman survive.
The presentation Friday evening will include images of family heirlooms from Little Liberia between 1840 and 1900.
“Keith Stokes understands what we are trying to do here in Bridgeport,” said Maisa L. Tisdale, executive director of the Freeman Center. “The historic Mary and Eliza Freeman Houses are rare examples of African American life prior to Emancipation. He will connect the dots for listeners regarding Little Liberia and the rest of the world.”
Stokes is a frequent national, state and local lecturer in community and regional planning, historic preservation and interpretation with an expertise in early African and Jewish American History
He has served on numerous regional and national historic preservation boards including serving as chairman of the Touro Synagogue Foundation, vice president and trustee of the Preservation Society for Newport County in Rhode Island and as a board member of the Newport Historical Society. He has worked in business, history and community development with degrees from Cornell University and the University of Chicago.
He is a native of Newport, Rhode Island.
Maisa L. Tisdale, President/CEO
The Mary & Eliza Freeman Center for History and Community
(203) 895-2469 cell