Category Archives: African-American Churches, #CTHistory

CT Humanities: Henry Foster

African-American Church Leader

Henry Foster played a very important role in Hartford’s African-American community as well as the first African-American congregation at the Talcott Street Church.  He called on a meeting to give a presentation of the claims of the Colored American in the first Colored Congregational Church in Talcott street. The meeting raised aware of “the necessity to subvert prejudice in their own power, and to support the ‘Colored American’ to make it into effect for their society, from both political and religious perspective.”

Henry Foster is identified as the president of the Connecticut State Temperance Society of Colored Americans. Henry Foster’s  group tended to defend and sustain the interests of the colored population, against the foul aspersions, a character they shall use money to sustain it.
He was also a member of the first African-American congregation at the Talcott Street Church, known today as the Faith Congregational Church in Hartford, Connecticut. Henry Foster leveraged his connections in the church to facilitate fugitive slaves and networked with David Ruggles, who harbored fugitive slaves in New York City. “By previous notice, a public meeting was convened  on the evening of May 18, 1840 in the colored Congregational church, on Talcott Street. The prayer for the group was delivered by Rev. J.W.C Pennington.” This meeting was addressed by Mr. David Ruggles. Mr. Henry Foster was a member of the Connecticut State Temperance Society of Colored Americans.

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The First African-American Congregational Church on Talcott Street, Hartford, Connecticut











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Faith Congregational Church, formally the Talcott Street Congregational Church

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Reverend. J.W.C. Pennington


Foster was also an educator in Hartford, in which he helped managing the applicants for teaching for the young gentleman of color to learn reading, writing, spelling, grammar and so on. He noticed the deficiency of the local education, in which African American children were not able to be placed under any kind of elementary education. Thus, he was passionately  raised the emergency of the necessity of local education


Ruggles and Foster aided many slaves who escaped north to Springfield, Massachusetts, where they resided with Reverend Osgood, whose Underground Railroad stop was nicknamed, “Prophet’s Chamber.” For instance, James L. Smith’s escape narrative explained these key players on his route north.

In William Green’s narrative, David Ruggles, in New York,  “was active in procuring material aid for and in giving [African American] good advice”. Green was directed to Springfield by Dr. Osgood from Hartford. Due to the fact that Henry Foster had connections with both David Ruggles and Dr. Osgood, he is most likely to the person undocumented at the Hartford station also due to the time match between Henry Foster and William Green.

The Liberator

The Liberator was an anti-slavery newspaper. Henry Foster was mentioned in the Liberator as an important agent for UGRR.

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The Liberator

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The Liberator














Henry Foster was an active temperance member and reformer who helped fugitive slaves in Hartford, Connecticut. “The temperance movement in the United States became a national crusade in the early nineteenth century with supporters of the movement objecting to alcohol’s destructive effects on individuals and communities. Supporters believed that the consumption of alcohol was responsible for personal and societal problems, including physical violence and unemployment.” The State Temperance Society of Colored People met in the city of New Haven, Nov. 9th, 1836, in pursuance to notice which had been published in several journals. Foster was also noted as being a leader among the temperance society, The National  Temperance and Moral Reform Convention Of The Colored Inhabitants of the United States. The Society was called to order at 4 o’clock, P.M. The President, Rev. Jehiel C. Berman, in the chair. Prayer by the president; after which, a committee of three was appointed to prepare and report the order of exercises for the evening meeting. Adjourned till 7 o’clock. At 7 o’clock, the Society was called to order: the vice president, Mr. Henry Foster, took the chair.  

National Convention

He was invited by the National Reform Convention of the Colored Inhabitants of the United States of America as the representative from Hartford, Connecticut. This National convention was called for freedom for African American, and the necessity to gain back the rights, happiness and life of the slave.  

There is meeting addressed by Mr. David Ruggles of New York on the subject of human rights. J.W.C Pennington, Henry Foster, and James Marks to be a committee to report on the subject of a National Convention. This is a evidence that Henry Foster knows David Ruggles, which was an abolitionist at the time. The meeting addresses strongly against slave owners at the time. And it states that the meeting of a Convention of the colored American of the free States, and these meetings should be held in August at some central place. “Mr. Foster contended that we have come to a crisis when we must ACT for ourselves, or suffer. To talk about waiting till our friends get right, is nonsense.”



“Born in Struggle, 1819-1860: Movements for change” The First Colored Congregational Church in Falcon Street

Talcott Street Congregational Church

“Reverend James Pennington: A Voice for Freedom” By Stacey Close for Connecticut Explored.

Newspaper for Anti-Slavery: The Liberator, by William Lloyd Garrison

Further Reading: 

“Temperance Movement in Connecticut”, by “Temperance – Newspapers of Connecticut.” Connecticut State Library Digital Collections, 2013

The Colored American/Weekly Advocate for a subscription at The University of Connecticut Library at Storrs also offers access:

“Narrative of Events in the Life of William Green”, by William Green



Prayers From Above

Rev. King. T. Hayes uses many good points as to why blacks who were put into slavery never gave up on believing that they would be free one day. Religion has always been a huge part of the way most people live their lives and their spirit. Blacks who were enslaved used church as a way to get away from the rest of the world. It makes sense why because on a daily basis, they have to listen to their owner and they are not able to control how they want to live. When they go to church, they look for a brighter future. In his essay Hayes says, “Afro-Americans could not have resisted or endured slavery if they had been utterly demoralized by its oppressiveness. What made the struggle for freedom possible were inner resources and patterns of thought that gave dignity to their lives and hopes for a brighter future.” This why many believe that religion was the “cornerstone” of the Afro-American culture. Especially with slaves, wherever they were living, they sought comfort in a religious community. Rev. Hayes focuses a lot on the churches in Hartford because of the strong Afro-American presence in Hartford.


Talcott Street Faith Congregational Church

There were many blacks who were slaves and they were freed. Hartford also played a momentous role as a stop on the Underground Railroad. The original number of Afro-Americans in Hartford try to find out religious services in all-white churches but were rejected and told that they had to sit at the back of the church or the balconies of those churches. They were also told that they were not allowed to participate in the service. This did not sit well with the Afro-Americans, and they decided to leave the white churches so that they can seek their own religious organization where they could worship God in freedom and advocate other self-help organizations.