Clark Farm Tenant House
Archaeological Site

East Granby, Connecticut

Connecticut African Americans and the Jackson Family

African-Americans made up 2 - 4% of the population of Connecticut throughout the Colonial period, and in rural areas less directly impacted by migration from the South, the proportion remained fairly steady throughout the 19th century and into the early 20th century. In this area, for example, blacks made up 2.7% of the population of Granby in 1800, 3.3% of the population of Granby in 1850, and 3.1% of the population of East Granby in 1870. Initially brought in as slaves from Africa, the West Indies, or the southern colonies to assist white families with farming and household tasks, by the end of the 18th century the state's African-American population was a mixed group of slaves and free persons, many of whom had lived in Connecticut for several Unidentified African American worker, ca. 1900 generations. The state's policy of gradual emancipation prolonged slavery well into the 19th century, and even free persons suffered unequal treatment from Connecticut law, notably the denial of voting rights. In the cities, there was perhaps greater opportunity for advancement through trades and even professional occupations, but in the countryside, the African American population's chief economic role was as a source of farm labor. Existing anecdotal evidence suggests that the resulting relationships were characterized by personal familiarity and even affection, though white attitudes were also commonly marked by condescension and racial stereotyping. There is strong evidence that the increased commercialization of farming, particularly tobacco cultivation, was drawing black people from city neighborhoods to the Connecticut countryside in the 1890s and early 1900s, by which time the "Black Yankee" culture described by William D. Pierson (1988) was mixing with that brought by more recent migrants from the South.

John Jackson, the person believed to have occupied this house from at least ca. 1870 to ca.1900, was a Connecticut-born farm laborer, just as his father, King Hopewell Jackson (ca. 1802-1869), had been. Although the military record is not entirely clear, John Jackson probably served with Connecticut's 29th Regiment, Colored Volunteers, in the Civil War, signing up with Company G as an enlistee for the adjacent town of Suffield. His brothers James, Thomas, and Gilbert, and his brother-in-law John Elkey also served in the war. James Jackson died in Texas guarding prisoners and John Elkey was wounded at the siege of Petersburg. After the war, John Jackson lived with Elkey and his sister Maria Jackson Elkey, along with their children, Katie, William, Susan, and Hopewell (U.S. Census Office 1870). He appears not to have married, and the 1880 census enumerator found him living alone. It is not recorded when he died.

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