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The Fairfield Slavery Project

About the Project:

The Vincent J. Rosivach Register of Slaves in Fairfield, Connecticut (1639-1820) is a comprehensive database of enslaved individuals in colonial and post-colonial Fairfield. This database is searchable, and will be able to track projection of slave families as well as movement across households and other important information related to the slave, their family, and their history. While there are some distinct contrasts between Northern and Southern slavery, one of the key similarities is the lack of proper record-keeping of these enslaved individuals’ identities. Our database compiles information including birth, death, and distribution of slaves in colonial and post-colonial Fairfield into a single site to help formulate a once-broken narrative. In several cases, we were able to piece together entire families of slaves, identifying a lineage previously scattered across countless documents.

This database was Dr. Rosivach’s passion project, and a culmination of almost 30 years of work. When he passed away in April of 2018, the research team continued to work to complete the project. Thanks to the support from the Vincent J. Rosivach Collaborative Research Fund, the mentorship of Dr. Giovanni Ruffini, and the support of so many other faculty and staff at Fairfield University, this goal was achieved. The database serves as a living representation of Dr. Rosivach’s work, and we are so proud to have made a contribution.

The Register uses primary source property documents, church records, newspaper advertisements, military records, and museum archives to compile a list of slaves and the households they were a part of. In doing this, we attempt to identify this often-overlooked history by providing real record of birth, death, marriage, family, and service as best available and appropriate as possible. That doesn't mean this is an exhaustive list; there are so many more places the team has not yet looked. The research continues. Have a lead? email us at

Visit the database here:

The Fairfield Slavery Project from Fairfield University on Vimeo.

Other Resources


Digital Scholarship Opportunities

  • Anti-Slavery Manuscripts, by the Boston Public Library. Help turn the Boston Public Library's collection of handwritten correspondence between anti-slavery activists in the 19th century into texts that can be more easily read and researched by students, teachers, historians, and big data applications.
  • By the People- Mary Church Terrell: Advocate for African Americans and Women, by the Library of Congress. Help transcribe the diaries and correspondence of Mary Church Terrell, the founding president of the National Association of Colored Women and, in 1909, a founder of the NAACP who spent her life fighting for the causes of universal suffrage, and the freedom and equality of men and women of all colors in the eyes of the law.

  • Freedmen's Bureau Records, by the Smithsonian Institute. The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, or Freedmen’s Burseu, was founded in 1865 to assist freedmen, women, and children after the war. The Bureau built schools, helped settle disputes, and regulated contracts between freedpeople and white employers. Help transcribe records of the Bureau to make the records searchable for researchers.


From the NY Times Historical Archive, July 7, 1865Even though President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, it took over 2 years for the executive order to reach the far depths of the Confederacy. It wasn't until June 19th, 1865 that the last remaining enslaved learned of their freedom, when Union soldiers reached Galveston, Texas. The following year and ever since, the day has been commemorated with celebration, prayer, and reflection.

When we look back on Juneteenth 2020, we must remember the added weight with which the day was commemorated, with demonstrations worldwide that protest police brutality, systemic racism, and the ignorant who don't understand what we mean when we say Black Lives Matter. Dr. Jocelyn Boryczka, (Associate Vice Provost for Scholarly, Creative, and Community Engagement and Professor of Politics), provides context for Juneteenth in this moment with her essay, "Re-membering", which she shared with the Fairfield University community on June 19th, 2020. Her essay is reproduced below along with links to the resources that she cited in the essay, as well as other resources that she recommends. 



Jocelyn M. Boryczka, PhD

Associate Vice Provost for Scholarly, Creative, and Community Engagement

Professor of Politics

Remembering. Taking a moment to reflect on past experiences - riding your bike without training wheels for the first time, traveling to a new place, celebrating holidays with family - form our memories. Our personal memories join together, accruing over time to become histories and a collective national consciousness.  These shape who we are and how we move in the world whether or not we fully recognize it. 

Today, we celebrate Juneteenth, a holiday recognized by most states, including Connecticut, and the District of Columbia, that marks the day in 1865 when Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to announce the end of the Civil War and slavery, two and a half years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.  Black Texans began celebrating this day in 1866 and others across the nation have joined in. Parades, dances, and backyard cookouts allow for rejuvenation and restoration.

This Juneteenth, in light of the Black Lives Matter movement reignited by George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police officers, calls us to attend to a much harder, painful part of remembering.  Dismembering requires the pulling apart and dissection of how and what we understand to be our body politic.  White people in this country are called to recognize their privilege and power acquired through systematic oppression of black Americans, and brown Americans and indigenous peoples. This call resonates in cities across the globe as white, black, and brown people join on the streets in mutual recognition of what, Charles Mills specifies as the racial contract built on the oppression of non-white, non-European peoples from the United States and United Kingdom to Tanzania and Taiwan. Race and racism, simply put, structure how our world operates.  Remembering this dismembers - pulls apart - how many white people understand themselves and the communities in which they live.

Forgetting is a form of privilege that pulls communities apart. A black man riding on a packed Metro North train with the only empty seat beside him, poet Claudia Rankin reminds us, can never forget that he is a black man.  It is carved into every fiber of his being.  Forgetting your race is a privilege of white people. Dismantling this white privilege entails white people remembering the systemic power that they exercise now and have done so throughout history.  It entails dismembering a particular version of the world by remembering the over 400-year history of slavery recently captured in the 1619 Project founded by Nikole Hannah-Jones and archived in the Smithsonian’s “Remembering Slavery Project,” and Fairfield University’s own Fairfield Slavery Project.

Dismembering as remembering involves a vulnerability inherent to practices such as radical hospitality.  This vulnerability requires individuals to reach beyond who they understand themselves to be by putting their ancestry and history - their experiences and memories - into a much more complex national and global consciousness onto the face of which racism is etched as a defining feature.  This shift illuminates the shared vulnerability of human life where we can begin to find each other anew, on a plane of welcoming and being welcomed where equity, diversity, and inclusivity may truly emerge.

Remembering is the first step in re-membering as we move from pulling apart to a coming together, even a reconnecting of the body politic torn asunder by racism from Ferguson and Charlottesville to Minneapolis and Atlanta.  Galveston, Texas, the birthplace of Juneteenth in 1865, grants us a site for recalling the history of slavery and a celebration of freedom.  We re-member - at a time when nearly 120,000 Americans have died from Covid-19 - our deep human need for relationship and community in the face of isolation and physical distancing.  To re-member our communities, we will need to practice sankofa, a Ghanian word that means looking back to move forward.  At this juncture, peoples build coalitions across races, religions, borders, and generations, the very coalitions enacting the fact that Black Lives Matter.

Resources Cited

Learn More About the History of Juneteenth