So Thrilled

Lauren Miller, director of grants and programs for CT Humanities; Cynthia Clegg, president and CEO of the Community Foundation; me; Thayer Talbott, senior director of programs and operations for the Foundation.
From left Lauren Miller, director of grants and programs for CT Humanities; Cynthia Clegg, president and CEO of the Community Foundation; me; Thayer Talbott, senior director of programs and operations for the Foundation.

The Connecticut Humanities Council has awarded a $23,000 grant to plan a documentary on the James family. Award-winning filmmakers and my dear cousins Ashley James and Kathryn Golden and I will be partnering with the Community Foundation of Middlesex County, with support from the Old Saybrook Historical Society, to plan For Dear Mother’s Sake: The James Family Letters That Shaped Ann Petry.

The letters document the lives of the best-selling author’s family:

  • a grandfather, who escaped from a Virginia plantation during the Civil War and became one of the first black men to buy a house in Hartford’s North End
  • her uncle, a “Buffalo Soldier” who, after his service in the Philippine-American War, begged Petry’s mother to send money so he could bribe a Georgia sheriff to escape a lynching
  • an aunt who went alone to Hawaii to care for the children of lepers at the turn of the twentieth century and met the last queen
  • Petry’s mother, who operated three businesses while raising a family
  • an aunt who became the first African-American woman to obtain a pharmacy license from the state of Connecticut and operated a pharmacy for more than forty years.

Petry’s mother saved the four hundred letters that will frame the documentary. For more, see Can Anything Beat White? A Black Family’s Letters, which I edited and compiled.

Everyone involved in this project is ecstatic and looking forward to exploring the lives of people who had a major impact on  Connecticut and around the world.

We will be holding various events as we move along, so watch this space for further announcements.

 

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