Witness Stones Arrive in Old Lyme, Project Will Mark Local Slave Narratives

OLD LYME — Up and down Lyme Street, cement and bronze markers arrived today showing where enslaved people once lived in the town of Old Lyme.

The markers are part of the Witness Stones Project, which “seeks to restore the history and honor the humanity of the enslaved individuals who helped build our communities” through research, education and civic engagement. The project grew out of research on slavery in Connecticut by Dennis Culliton, a local historian and teacher in Guilford, where the first stones in the state were laid. Since then, 12 towns including Old Lyme have joined the project. 

In a conversation with CT Examiner, Culliton said he feared erasure of history and stressed the importance of giving voice to the voiceless. 

“If you look at a lot of the history books in these towns, including Guilford, there might be quarter page about slavery — it lasted at least 150 years and there’s only a quarter page,” he said. 

Credit: Witness Stones Project, Old Lyme

Culliton said in 2017 that he worked with Doug Nygren, a family counselor and German scholar, and Cindy Kozal, an activist, to find a way to use Culliton’s research to show “the truth of Northern slavery and to change the local historical narrative.” 

Culliton said the project is an important part of retelling the history of the Northeast, one that includes everyone. 

“If we can change the way we remember the past, how will that change how we act in the present?” he said.

A ceremony honoring the Witness Stones project will be held at the Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library, 2 Library Lane, on Friday at 10 a.m.

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