Here All Along: African Americans in Northeastern Connecticut Before the Great Migration, 1688-1910 — A Virtual Exhibit

Curated by Jamie H. Eves, 2023

Sponsored by a grant from Connecticut Humanities

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Textile production tools. A winder and a great wheel.
Agricultural tools. From left to right: rake, flail, two pickaxes, and a maul.
To read an article about the Jackson family, click anywhere on the image above.
To read articles about the Methodist Melee on Main Street and Windham/Willimantic/Mansfield abolitionists, click on the image above.
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Who is missing?

Here It Is

Curated by Justice — Michele Thomas, 2023

Interwoven throughout the “Here All Along” exhibit was a second exhibit, called “Here It Is,” featuring the artwork of Justice — Michele Thomas, an African American artist from Hartford, CT, and a professor at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. History and art thus came together in one exhibit room, side-by-side, telling similar stories. Justice’s multimedia artwork reflected on the African American experience in the United States. A sampling is below.

Artist’s biography: Justice – Michelle Thomas is a Hartford, Connecticut native, currently residing in Brooklyn, NY. She is married and a mother of boy-girl twins. She served in the Connecticut Air National Guard, retiring in 2010 with 21 years of faithful service.  Justice attended Manchester Community College, where she received two associate degrees with High Honors for Fine Arts and General Studies. Justice then went on to graduate from Central Connecticut State University with a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Science in Art Education. She pursued her second Master of Fine Arts degree at Pratt Institute in 2022. She worked as an art consultant and Resident Artist at the Montessori School of Greater Hartford (MSGH) facilitating art workshops for the teaching staff and demonstrated various art concepts to all age levels throughout the school. Justice also volunteered her services on Hartford Public Access Television where she co-produced, hosted and video edited a TV program called Artistic Expressions; a show dedicated to advancing and advocating for the Arts. Justice is currently a Professor at Pratt Institute. She also currently works as a Master Artist Assistant with the internationally world renown artist Kara Walker.

Artist’s Statement: While my concentration is painting, I am a multi-media artist.  I osculate between tight rendering and loose brushwork while adding material elements such as metal, clay, burlap, tar and gauze. I tap into an exciting energy surge as creation manifests and emerges on the surface. No matter the subject, my goal is to illuminate the essence of layered conceptual complexities in one visual experience. For me, art production is a cycle of challenges and solutions making way for personal expression.


My work is about the identity of the Black body. How that body has been manipulated, codified, dehumanized, reconstructed, glorified, and adorned. Material and message are key. I use various collage elements to give meaning to the narrative. Whether working figuratively or in abstraction, the goal is to reclaim a positive identity while exposing negative truths. My evolution revolves around critically considering the relationship between the materials, their connotation, and the connection to the message. Movement from the canvas into the community is equally important in connecting, healing, and relaying positive messages through actions of love.  

This current body of work represents my personal journey of looking back upon my life, retracing historical events and personal experiences to glean knowledge of self.  No matter how painful looking at our collective past is, there exists an extreme benefit to learning from one’s mistakes and misfortunes in order to change the course of the future.  The human story may at times be wrought with injustice, discontent and outright hatred yet our resilient spirit rises above and overcomes all obstacles.  My mission is to encourage healing in this hurting world.  As we journey back, we can reunite with spirit, taking us to the very source of existence where all knowledge and wisdom reside, manifesting the necessary energy to change the world and ourselves. Meditation is a key component to centering spirit.        

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Here All Along:
African Americans in the Windham, CT Area, 1688-1910

A Slide Show by Jamie H. Eves, Windham Town Historian

A version of this slide show was presented in 2022 via Zoom by the Mill Museum as part of its Museum Lyceum lecture series. It was re-presented (also via Zoom) in its present form in 2023 at a meeting of the Windham-Willimantic chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. An abridged version was presented later in 2023, in person, at the Pomfret, CT, Historical Society. 

For the 2023 PowerPoint version, click here: Here All Along

Resources for Local African American History: The Case of Windham, CT

A Slide Show by Jamie H. Eves, Windham Town Historian

This slide show was presented in 2022 via Zoom at the Fall Conference of the Association for the Study of Connecticut History.

For the PowerPoint version, click here: Resources for Local African American History