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Witness Stone Project shines a light on 2 formerly enslaved Americans at Pardee-Morris House

Pink and Stepna Primus were their names. There are no paintings nor drawings – only two small placards that acknowledge their lives.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The history of the Pardee-Morris House in New Haven is well known.

Located in the city’s Morris Cove area, the large two-and-a-half-story wood-frame home with stone walls and a clapboard exterior was the home of the Morris family. Built in the late 17th century, it is one of New Haven’s oldest surviving buildings.

However, there is another part of its history – or at least two of its residents – that is not well known. That is changing.

RELATED: Hear untold stories of West Hartford's history through Witness Stones Project

Pink and Stepna Primus were their names. There are no paintings nor drawings – only two small placards that acknowledge their lives.

One reads: “Pink, mother, wife & land-owner. Enslaved here by Amos Morris. Emancipated 1800. Died circa 1950.”

The other is similar: “Stepna Primus. Husband and farmer. Enslaved here by Amos Morris, Issac Forbes & Enos Heminway. Emancipated 1796. Died 1818.”

Credit: FOX61

They were husband and wife and the Pardee-Morris House was their home until they were freed.

"They were part of the Morris property. They were owned by the Morris',” Khalil Quotap said. “They were eventually freed and they took up residency here in this part of the city.”

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The placards are part of a recently completed Witness Stone Project by students from Foote School and Cold Spring School.

Quotap, the director of education and engagement at the New Haven Museum, said they only have information about Pink and Stepna Primus from a legal perspective – documents that showed the Morris family enslaved Black people.

More than 10,000 enslaved Americans worked in Connecticut before slavery became illegal in the state in 1848. For many of them, their stories remain untold, however, for Pink and Stepna Primus, that has changed.

"The idea was to look into the family’s history, to see if they owned anybody enslaved, and try to tell their stories," Quotap said.

The 7th-grade students challenged themselves to find out everything they could about these two formally enslaved people.

“It feels amazing to be able to do something that will be in a museum that'll outlive myself and the people that I worked with, so that feels amazing that it was bigger than us and what we were doing," said Veena Scholand, one of the Foote School 7th grade students who spent two months researching.

RELATED: Connecticut's largest and longest-published African American newspaper approaches 48th anniversary

Scholand and her partner, Annabel Cady, researched Pink’s story – reaching beyond the realm of the classroom to find answers about the past.

“A lot of time we almost place slavery as a Southern issue and we really need to remember that it is an American issue,” Cady said. “The North and the Midwest both benefited from slavery and to be able to remember people who were on this land right here was very important."

Credit: FOX61

Pink and Stephna Primus were nearly lost to history. Now, visitors to the Pardee-Morris House can walk through time and get a fuller picture of the families who once lived there.

To learn more about the Pardee-Morris House, click here.

DeAndria Turner is a multi-media journalist at FOX61 News. She can be reached at dturner@fox61.com. 


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