Celebrating Black Culture & Businesses in Connecticut Last Updated: February 2022
Connecticut is a state with rich history and remarkable innovation – and so much of it has been influenced by the Black individuals who live or have lived here. From historic monuments to Black-owned restaurants, boutiques, and other businesses, we’ve gathered ways to honor and support the Black history, culture, and businesses that make Connecticut special.
Since there are so many great businesses, we were only able to feature a sample, but encourage you to find even more at ShopBlackCT.com.
This article was informed by the research contributions of University of New Haven students.
History & Culture
Connecticut is filled with Black history and plenty of ways to learn, discover, and honor it.
Did you know that the nation’s first boarding school for young African American women was right in Connecticut? Today, it is the Prudence Crandall Museum. Prudence Crandall's efforts for equal education helped affirm attitudes against slavery and ultimately won her a spot in the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame in 1995. While the museum is currently under renovation and has not yet reopened, we recommend adding it to your list for future outings.
Another spot to appreciate Black history is Connecticut’s Old State House, a beautifully renovated landmark where the Amistad Trial took place. In 1833, Prudence Crandall, mentioned above, was put on trial here for operating a school for young women of color, violating the state's “Black Law.” This museum gives visitor’s a sense of connection to Hartford’s past and the opportunity to view important exhibits.
You won’t want to miss the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. Inside the Museum is the Amistad Center for Arts and Culture, housing a fine collection of over 7,000 pieces of African American works of art, artifacts, and archives. The exhibition brings together the work of incredible African American artists. Or, explore the impact of Stowe's 1852 anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford and engage with collections that belonged to Stowe and her family.
At the Soldiers & Sailors Monument Memorial Arch in Hartford, you will find a freed slave sculpture that was added on the monument’s north side to show honor and respect for the contributions of African American soldiers in the Civil War.
If you’re a fan of performance arts, check out the Queen Ann Nzinga Center in New Britain. This center was established in honor of Queen Ann Nzinga, a 15th-century African queen who sheltered many of her citizens from being captured into the Slave Trade. Today it’s a nonprofit dedicated to empowering youth. Or, try the Free Center in Farmington, a cultural organization designed to act as a community center for the arts. Freedom of expression is encouraged and highlighted by workshops and activism opportunities.
Honor the service of Connecticut’s first all-black military regiment with a visit to the 29th Colored Regiment Monument at Criscuolo Park in New Haven. The troop faced racism, discrimination, and lower pay than white regiments. Still, they fought courageously and were even the first infantry units to enter Richmond, Virginia after it was abandoned by the Confederate Army. The monument was dedicated in 2008 and beautifully commemorates the soldiers who contributed so greatly to both African American and American history.
Often docked in New Haven or the Mystic Seaport Museum, The Amistad Replica represents the Schooner ship that was transporting the kidnapped African men from Sierra Leone to enslavement in Cuba. It is not available to board but is a significant piece of history to observe.
The City of New London's Black Heritage Trail celebrates three centuries of strength, resilience, and accommplisement.
Below find more spots to discover Black history in Connecticut.
Food & Drink
When it comes to food, expect great things from Connecticut’s Black-owned restaurants. Grab cocktails at community hot spot, Anchor Spa in New Haven, or sample the flavors of Rhythm Brewing Company, created by Alisa Bowens-Mercado, who’s been nicknamed “Lady Lager.”
At Black Eyed Sally’s Southern Kitchen & Bar in Hartford, dine in a century-old building filled with blues-inspired folk art. This space was renovated about 25 years ago by owner James Varano, who dreamed of bringing Hartford what he thought was missing: Southern and barbecue cuisine. For more Southern-style bites, try Lynon’s Restaurant & Bar in Hamden.
At Soul de Cuba Cafe in New Haven, enjoy a variety of great Afro-Cuban dishes. The restaurant in New Haven is a cozy setting that has Cuban memorabilia, family portraits, and Afro-Cuban religious artwork – real sense of culture along with tasty cuisine.
Discover vegan delicacies at Fire & Spice in Hartford. Enjoy great entrees, brunch bites, and live entertainment at The Russell in Harford, try fresh seafood at Eat Fish in Bridgeport, or devour wings of nearly every flavor at Hot Rod Café in New London. And to finish off your foodie tour, grab a sweet treat at Capital Ice Cream in Hartford.
Below are more Black-owned restaurants to check out.
Fashion & Accessories
These Black business owners are styling customers to look their bests. Find gorgeous jewelry, handbags, and other accessories at The Best Accessory or Uniquely Yours Accessories, where they believe you should “allow your accessories to announce your presence.” Find stand-out looks including African headwraps and trendy outfits by designer and fashion enthusiast, Jazzmine at Styled by Jazz. Unlock your self-confidence with pieces from She Knows Sportswear, a clothing company with a mission to provide trendy, athletic, and comfortable looks to women of all sizes. And top it off with great headwear from Brothers Johnson 1929 Hat Co., specializing in hats from newsboy caps to fedoras and beyond.
For a unique connection to fashion, try Neville Wisdom Fashion Design Studio in New Haven. The owner grew up in Jamaica where he taught himself to design and create clothing. When you visit the studio in person, you’ll have the opportunity to create clothes yourself! They also offer 20+ services including tailoring and meting — plus one-on-one sewing classes.
Below are more Black-owned boutiques to check out.
Beauty & Cosmetics
Whether you’re looking for makeup, skincare, or haircare, these business owners have you covered. Voted Best Health, Wellness & Beauty Brand in the Best of Shop Black CT 2021, discover enriching hair and skin products at Daddy Butter, which specializes in signature body butters from MangoHoney Hair & Body Butter to Bug Repellent Butter and Anti-Inflammatory Butter. Shop hair products and wigs at House of Elysian, get lash extensions and more at Smitten Kitten Beauty in Cheshire, and find goodies for your lips, brows, and even men’s skincare at BeroyaleCosmetics.
Below are more minority-owned beauty and cosmetics businesses to check out.
Recharge and detox at these great wellness businesses. Enjoy a relaxing massage at Angelic Touch Massage Services in Bristol or Verve Massage & Spa Services in Bloomfield, where you can also throw a spa party. When you’re unwinding at home, light a soy candle from Natural Annie Essentials to set a relaxing mood.
If you’re a proud yogi, (or simply want to give it a try) take a class at Bikram Yoga in Simsbury or Written Purpose in Fairfield. Get private yoga and journaling sessions from Rooted in Stillness Yoga, or even find yoga and mindfulness courses for the kids at Live Like a Lotus.
Below are more minority-owned wellness businesses to check out.
Bookstores, Writing Services & Paper Goods
Photo credit: @itsabrammoore on Instagram
Connecticut is home to some great Black-owned bookstores and spots to find paper goods. Stay organized in style with decorative planners from Paper Standards, or find great journals at Fearless Prints. Parents can diversify their bookshelves with inclusive children’s books from Here Wee Read, owned by Charnaie Gordon, a woman changing children’s education one book at a time.
Below are more minority-owned book businesses to check out.
Black History Month Events
Black History Month Gallery Talk
February 2, February 16 — New Britain Museum of American Art
Author Event: Robert Harris - “Historical Moments: Military Contributions of African Americans”
February 3 — Wood Memorial Library & Museum, South Windsor
This is Us! A Celebration of African American Musicians
February 4 — The Bijou Theatre, Bridgeport
February 4 - 20 — Music Theatre of Connecticut, Norwalk
Virtual: The Reign of Black Governor
February 10 — Virtual
A Heart Full of Grace: Celebrating the Life and Work of Dr. King
February 15 — Virtual
Straight Talk: The African Ancestry Experience
February 24 — Virtual
"Changing Lanes: Mobility in Connecticut"
Through April 3 — Amistad Center for Art & Culture, Hartford
Winter STEM in a Box- Celebrating Black History
February 15 - March 2 — Connecticut Science Center, Hartford