Barbara Beeching, a University of Connecticut alum, explained to an audience at the Harriet Rowe Center on Thursday evening that the family whose story is told throughout her book, during the aftermath of the Civil War and the end of slavery, saw the future as full of promise.
In her book “Hopes and Expectations: The Origins Of The Black Middle Class In Hartford” Beeching discusses what she has researched through the letters of a family that was split between Baltimore, Boston and Hartford. Through these letters she conveys the voices and experiences this family has with racial injustice in the 1800s. Why did she write such a book in 2017?
In her words, “I wanted to know more, I wanted to know more about the family and the community.”
Stephanie Levine of Seabury Connecticut says she came to the event because she lives in close proximity to Beeching.
“I thought it was interesting, for one. I really appreciated the parallels,” Levine said.
What she referenced as “parallels” are the fact that the same injustices that took place during the 1800s recurred in the 1960s in the same way described in Beeching’s book.
The family in the book was optimistic and saw the world as an open door. They even felt as if for the first time, black people ran a city. Specifically, in the book Beeching says, “Colored people for once can say they owned the city.” Beeching went on to explain that this this was not in fact the truth.
Even qualified people of color were not allowed the opportunity to thrive in their craft. She spoke of an instance where a man became a lawyer and worked as such for under a year, but then was recorded to be a clerk the following year. There was also an instance where Beeching discusses what teaching was like in that time. Black teachers were not hired even though schools were integrated. Beeching even went as far as to say, “There were no professionals, blacks in Hartford.” This was because in society, people of color in Hartford found it hard to be successful, regardless of their qualifications.
Wanda Seldon, a veteran of the Harriet Rowe Center in Hartford and a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority explained.
“I’m intrigued about the ‘black middle class’ in Hartford.” She proceeded to discuss the ideas of wealthy people attending a church that she is a part of and how those people could possibly be “the black middle class of Hartford.” She reminisced about a teacher she was extremely fond of named Jerry Jones, who Seldon says was one of the first black music teachers in Hartford. Jones died at some time last year at 90 years old.
Barbara Beeching earned a degree in journalism at a college in Indiana. She then earned her masters from Trinity College, then her doctorate in history from UConn. She earned all of her higher education credentials while raising her six children.
Madison Appleby is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . She tweets at @madd_journalist