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Plaques at Lyme Public Library Expand Old Lyme Witness Stones Project

Community Gathers for Commemorative Event

On Friday, May 31, the community gathered at the Old Lyme Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library for a ceremony marking the installation of new Witness Stones—historical plaques commemorating the lives of enslaved African Americans.

This year, the Witness Stones Old Lyme project installed ten new markers to honor the lives of Dina, Jenny, Pompey, Peter, Bristo, Suberiah, Boston, Cuff Condol, Prince Brown, and Pomp Henry, deepening the untold story of local enslavement. Placed at the Lyme Public Library, 482 Hamburg Road, in the Town of Lyme (previously known as North Lyme), this addition brings the total number of plaques to 48. Previous installations took place on Lyme Street, McCurdy Road, and Old Shore Road in Old Lyme in 2021, 2022, and 2023.

The installation ceremony on the Old Lyme Library lawn featured a remarkable program of music, poetry, and words from community leaders and partners. The event began with a spirited saxophone solo and welcoming remarks, then proceeded with tributes through various artistic expressions.

Guest speakers included Rhonda Ward, Witness Stones Old Lyme poet and the first New London Poet Laureate, who described the challenge of giving voice to the voiceless. To find a voice for those enslaved, like the matriarch Jenny Freeman commemorated in the poem “A Life in a Day,” Ward said she delved into the history not just of Old Lyme, but of slavery in Connecticut and the Northeast. Martha Shoemaker, Old Lyme First Selectwoman, and Melissa Fournier, Lyme librarian, highlighted the importance of middle school students uncovering lost history and the significance of remembering the lives of those once enslaved in the community and listening to their now not-so-silent voices.

Soloist Nikita Waller and saxophonist Rick Wyman, along with the Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School chorus, under the direction of Laura Ventres, added moving musical tributes. Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School poets read biographical poems they had written for those commemorated by the Witness Stones, offering a personal perspective on the experience of Cuff Condol and the child servant Peter, two of those being honored.

The community’s participation underscored its commitment to acknowledging and honoring the contributions and lives of enslaved individuals in the area. The Witness Stones Old Lyme Project continues to play a crucial role in bringing to light the often-overlooked narratives of African Americans in the region's history, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation within the community.

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