In the spirit of the Suffield Academy’s Sophomore Leadership service-learning project, the American Studies class challenges students to collaborate on an investigation of a local history mystery and then make a public presentation on what they learned and how they learned it.
This Year’s Investigation: The Other Underground Railroad
In the 1790s a former captain in the Revolutionary army named Hanchett operated a small tavern just over the border of West Suffield in the town of Southwick, Massachusetts. According to John Hooker, a major figure in Connecticut’s abolitionist movement, “He was a desperate character, and the terror of the region.” Hanchett attempted to kidnap Flora, a free African-American, and her two daughters, but Flora’s husband Exeter, “a man of respectable character,” was able to fight off Hanchett. Nevertheless, one day Exeter came home from work and discovered Flora and the young girls missing. A warrant was issued for Hanchett, but he remained on the Massachusetts side of the border. Exeter went on two long journeys searching for his family yet died never knowing their fate. Then in 1845 Reverend Hemengway of West Suffield wrote a letter to John Hooker; the two men formed a partnership to sue Southern slave owners in Virginia so that the descendants of Flora could be freed. The class will investigate this whole case as well as Hemengway and Hooker’s legal journey, which included four trials, and the last one was in the Supreme Court of Virginia. The class will also present their findings to the Suffield Historical Society on April 19, 2016.
Furthermore, this year’s class will become educational ambassadors and establish an academic network across the state in order to write a more current history of the Underground Railroad with students and teachers from other CAIS schools. They will manage, edit, and promote this network from the class blog: https://caisctpbl.wordpress.com
Connecticut in the American Civil War: Slavery, Sacrifice, and Survival, by Matthew Warshauer.
Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery, by Anne Farrow.
Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, by Carmine Gallo