New Year’s Day Traditions 

In early colonized America, New Year’s Day was celebrated on March 25th, following the Julian calendar used in Europe since antiquity. It was not until 1752 when the beginning of year was switched to the Gregorian calendar (losing eleven days in the process) that the first of the year became January 1st. In other cultures, the New Year varies in its beginning, from the Spring equinox in the Zoroastrian tradition, to early winter in the Chinese lunar calendar to the Fall in Judaism.  

As in other cultures, certain traditions were followed on New Year’s Day in colonial America—many of which placed the day above Christmas as a festive day. At the time Christmas was often observed, particularly in Puritan regions like Connecticut, as a solemn religious holiday so it was New Year’s Day that was a day for visiting and enjoying treats a practice first observed by those of Dutch descent in the New York Colony. 

Nieuwjaarskoeken, a thin, crispy cinnamon flavored cookie imprinted with a design imprinted on both sides was eaten topped with whipped cream. Spiced wine was often shared among young women in a traditional called “wassailing.”

Close up of a plate of Hoppin John

Sauerkraut was a common food for German Americans, while Southerners ate Hoppin’ John a dish of black-eyed peas flavored with salted pork or bacon and served with rice and mixed greens—featuring ingredients that came to North America with enslaved Africans and adopted universally.

Plate of Hoppin’ John

Today Americans in the South still eat Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day for luck—a practice also followed by people in the Caribbean in various culinary iterations. 

For the enslaved, New Year’s Day, was also called “Hiring Day” or “Heartbreak Day” because it was when debts of the previous year were settled among the White community. Enslavers would sell or hire out their human chattel to pay these debts, removing enslaved people from their community and family groups. 

Illustration of Watch Night

In 1862, New Year’s Day took on a different meaning with the enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation declaring the end of enslavement in America on January 1st, 1863. On December 31st, 1862, the enslaved stayed up late through the night, waiting for sunrise and news of freedom. Today the day is celebrated as “Watch Night” in many Black communities. 

Illustration of a slave staying up for Watch Night

Hoppin’ John Recipe

For the Beans

  • ½ pound of bacon or ½ pound of pancetta diced into small pieces. Note: Bacon may be omitted. If omitting, use 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in its place
  • ½ onion, minced 
  • 1 celery stalk, white part trimmed, and minced 
  • ½ green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and minced 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 1 cup dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight in 3 cups of water or 1 can of black-eyed peas, rinsed 
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper 
  • 2 springs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme 
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper 
  • 1 teaspoon of coarse salt or more to taste 
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken stock 

For the Greens 

  • ¼ pound of bacon or ½ pound of pancetta diced into small pieces or ¼ pound turkey bacon 
  • ½ onion, minced 
  • 1 garlic clove minced 
  • 6 cups of washed and trimmed greens of your choice: collard, turnip, kale, mustard or escarole 
  • ½ teaspoon salt or more to taste 
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth or water 

Cooked rice to serve.

Make the Hoppin’ John

  1. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add the bacon. Cook until crispy and the fat is rendered. If omitting bacon, or if using, turkey bacon use 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. 
  2. Once fat is rendered from the bacon, add the onion, celery and bell pepper. Cook until softened, about 5 to 6 minutes. 
  3. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. 
  4. Stir in the black-eyed peas and cayenne. 
  5. Add the thyme, bay leave, salt and pepper, and stock. Simmer, uncovered, 1 to 1 ½ hours for dried peas and 30 minutes for canned. 

Make the Greens

  1. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add the bacon. Cook until crispy and the fat is rendered. If omitting bacon, or if using, turkey bacon use 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. 
  2. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. 
  3. Stir in the greens and stir well. Cook until the greens are just wilted, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the salt 
  4. Add the vegetable or chicken stock and stir well. Simmer on low for 30 to 40 minutes, uncovered. 
  5. Ladle beans over cooked rice in a bowl. Add greens on the side of the rice. 

Learn More

Wassail Recipe from Colonial Williamsburg 

The Historical Legacy of Watch Night 

Lewis Clark’s Account of Hiring Day, 1842 from The Antislavery Standard 

From Henry Street to Westport

The “House on The Pond” is recognizable to many Westporters but from about 1919 to 1940, the lady who lived there – Lillian Wald – was even more famous still.  A nurse and humanitarian most noted for her work among young people and with immigrants in New York City’s Lower East Side, Wald was a noted pioneer of American public health. 

Born 10 March 1867 in Cincinnati, Ohio to German-Jewish parents Miss Lillian D. Wald, got her first taste of nursing when she was eighteen years old assisting the nurse her elder sister Julia had hired after the birth of her first child. Lillian’s interactions with the independently helpful woman sparked in Lillian a passion that would last a lifetime. Lillian resolved to become educated as a nurse and was accepted to the New York Hospital School of Nursing in 1889. After her graduation in 1891 she spent a brief time working in the New York Juvenile Asylum on West 176th Street in Manhattan. After seeing deplorable conditions and suffering exceedingly ill treatment of patients by medical staff, she determined a medical degree would gain her the respect and abilities to effect change for the youth of the city. In 1892 she enrolled at the Women’s Medical College (WMC) in New York City. 

While enrolled at the WMC, Lillian volunteered to teach a home-nursing course to immigrant women from the Lower East Side. One morning, the daughter of one of her students came to fetch Miss Wald to assist her mother. The child rushed her through a series of side streets and alleyways until reaching a tenement on Ludlow Street. Then Lillian was led across a court, past open toilets to a rear building. There, the family of seven and two boarders were living in two rooms and the sick mother was lying on a dirty bed, suffering from a two-day old hemorrhage. The sight of this woman’s plight and the shock of seeing how many humans lived in similar conditions were the catalysts to change Lillian Wald’s future life. After this experience, Lillian found that she could be useful without a medical degree and decided to leave WMC. 

Lillian Wald with former UK Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, his daughter Ishbel and Lillian’s dog,

With the help of Mary Brewster, a friend from nursing school, she acquired an apartment in a Jefferson Street tenement. The two began going about the neighborhood to help with the sick regardless of their religion or their ability to pay.

Lillian Wald with former UK Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, his daughter Ishbel and Lillian’s dog, Ramsay at her home on Round Pond Rd, Westport, CT, 1929; WMHC Collections

Soon, however, Miss Wald and Miss Brewster found that they had more work ahead of them than just the two ladies could handle, and so they increased their number to four and in 1895 moved to a house at 265 Henry Street which was donated by Jacob Schiff and would eventually become the Henry Street Settlement and Visiting Nurse Service. 

Twenty years after Miss Wald initially arrived on the East Side, the Henry Street Settlement housed two kindergartens, carpenter shops, dancing schools, gymnasiums, debating classes and literary societies, as well as having three summer homes in the country for patrons to visit, a convalescent home, a library and study, and a place set aside for a sewing school. They offered lectures on subjects which ranged from government to sex hygiene, and there were clubs for boys and girls. 

Over the years, Miss Wald became involved with numerous humanitarian efforts. She worked with the Board of Health to post nurses in schools and by 1914 had succeeded in having 374 school nurses city wide. Also, she and others formed the National Child Labor Committee in 1903. In 1905 Lillian met with President Theodore Roosevelt and suggested the idea of creating the Federal Children’s Bureau which would help educate and protect children in the workforce. The Bureau was eventually formed, but not until 1912 by President Taft.

Lillian also helped to establish the Nurses Emergency Council during the influenza Epidemic when it struck in the fall of 1918, at a conference of nurses called by the Red Cross Atlantic Division. Perhaps one of her most well-known contributions to society was her suggestion to Dr. Lee Frankel of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company to send trained nurses to the family of every policy holder where insurance representatives had reported illness. This visiting nurse service was approved by the Met Life board and speedily implemented not only in New York City, but to all policy holders throughout the United States and Canada. 

Toward the end of WWI, Lillian rented a home for her ill mother to convalesce in during the summers on a small pond near the Saugatuck River in Westport. After her mother’s death in 1923, and after her own health began to decline in 1925, Lillian continued to summer at “her house on the pond” which she then purchased. Lillian retired from active work at the Settlement in 1933 and relinquished the presidency in 1937. However, her retirement was not spent quietly as she entertained many of her famous friends at her Compo home. Chief among them were Jane Addams, Albert Einstein, Former Mayor of New York City Fiorello LaGuardia (a fellow Compo resident), Governor and Mrs. Herbert Lehman, Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald with his daughter Ishbel, and Eleanor Roosevelt. 

Lillian Wald and Jane Addams in a photograph together

For her 70th birthday in 1937 and the 20th anniversary of her residence in Westport, a book of words, signatures and illustrations was compiled by the members of the community. 1200 of Westport’s men, women, and children signed the book or provided illustrations. Each contributed $0.25 to make up a check for the Henry Street Settlements.

Lillian Wald with Jane Addams in Washington, D.C., 1916; Library of Congress Photo Collection

This unique book was cherished by Miss Wald and its pages were preserved at her request. Local artists who contributed to this book were James Daugherty, Charles Prendergast, Robert Lambdin, George Wright, Alice Harvey, Kerr Eby, Karl Anderson, Beulah Allen Northrup and Joe King. This book is now on display at the Henry Street Settlement and a facsimile copy was made and bound which can be viewed at the Westport Library. 

Miss Wald remained active while in Westport, willing to help with local relief programs, and she maintained a phone on her bedside table so that she could be in constant contact with welfare and relief organizations. And in her last months, although she was quite ill, she instructed workmen to install flood lights around the pond so that the children who were apt to skate there in the evenings would be able to see. 

Lillian Wald passed away September 2, 1940. Westport mourned her passing and many of her friends and neighbors pushed and eventually succeeded in her election to the Hall of Fame of Great Americans at New York University in 1970.

You can learn more about Lillian’s life and work by reading her books, The House on Henry Street and Windows on Henry Street or by visiting the Henry Street Settlement in New York City or by viewing their online exhibit at

Town Poet Laureate Diane Lowman on The History of Everyday Poetry in Westport

A whole host of cultural illuminati have lived or worked in Westport for a time. Famously, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald wrote, and Desi loved Lucy. More recently, Lynsey Addario and Justin Paul graduated from Staples High School and went on to do amazing things. We can lay claim to talented residents in myriad fields.

When the town graciously selected me as its first Poet Laureate, a question arose about which famous poetic forebears (I am decidedly not famous) might have lived or written in Westport. A subsequent search yielded surprisingly little. A rumour that I plan to research had it that Robert Frost may have alit here for a while, but that is as yet as unconfirmed as a Yeti sighting.

Never mind, I thought. What about everyday poets and poetry? Part of my mission as inaugural Poet Laureate of our hamlet is to make poetry less mysterious and inaccessible, and to create community through what we can all share through words. So I decided to dig a bit into Westport’s more quotidian poetic life. It turns out that we have a rich and quirky history of verse, created by many little-known, but homegrown, bards.

My research has been neither exhaustive nor scientific, but I have found a great deal of poetry in some unexpected places. The Westport Museum for History and Culture and the Westport Library both yielded quite a few surprising finds:

Autograph Books

Back in the day, graduating seniors would bring small autograph books to school prior to the end of the term, and get friends to sign them. We often do this now with big, heavy yearbooks, but these fragile pages in the Westport Museum’s archives hold sentimental and endearing gems within their bindings. 

Written poem by F.W. Dunn

In 1925, Marie Durner wrote: “When rocks & hills divide us/And you no more I see/Just think of the name ‘Midgie’/A school pal dear to thee”. F.W. Dunn philosophized: “When everything seems rotten/And the outlooks [sic] very bad/Just think of SHS/And then you’ll have to be glad”. And ‘Dint’ Maurer quipped: “Merrily we trot along/O’er the future ‘o path/But take heed! Don’t fall/For every fall means a step/Nearer to your grave.” 

Image Courtesy Westport Museum Collections

Christmas Cards

For some neither the brief “happy holidays” nor the more voluminous ‘our family’s year in words’ would do. When some Westporters sent holiday greetings, they did it in verse.  In 1946 Adelaide and Jack Baker wrote: “Far-flung adventures? None this year/Those who are building cannot roam/Shingles and brick and plumbers are/Elusive, so we stayed at home/And, as we made new homes for others/Found that our own was still more dear”. The Sanford Evans family sent this Christmas greeting in 1925: “Our chimney pots/Are good and big – and our/Yule-logs burn with cheer/For all that/We’re expecting – Are they/Big enough this year?” And in 1933 The Steinkraus Family put out Ye Westport Primer, with a seasonal abecedarius printed in red and green, beginning with “A is for artists you see all around;/This is the town where they do abound/ B is for the beach, a fine place to swim;/We loll on the sand to get vigor and vim”, and ending with “Z’s for the zassafrass in our backyard,/(You’ve got to admit that Z’s very hard.)” Christmas illustrations, including Santa in his reindeer-pulled sled flying across a red full moon, abound. 

Town Clerk

In the 1867-1886 volume “Births Marriages Deaths for Westport, a creative Town Clerk included some lovely verse in the blank spaces of the ledger where he recorded the quotidian events that made up our townsfolk’s lives. He harkens back to the eighteenth-century poet George Crabbe who had, a century earlier, also recorded the lives of his fellow villagers in rural England, and shares his words, perhaps to reflect his own emotions, on several pages of his recordings. One, from 1834 is an excerpt from Crabbe’s The Parish Register and, reads: “To Muse, I ask, before my view to bring/The humble actions of the swains I sing/How pass’d the youthful, how the old their days;/Who sank in sloth, and who aspired to praise/Their tempers, manners, morals, customs, arts/What parts they had, and how they employed their parts/By what elated, sooth’d, seduc’d, depressed/Full well I know the records give the rest.”


Poetry comes to us from beyond, or more precisely from, the grave in some cases. While most of the headstones in the numerous cemeteries around town provide the most basic information – names and dates – some loved ones memorialized those they lost with verse. While these poems may not have been penned by locals, they were placed by locals, where they have served to sprinkle lasting poetry around town. In Willowbrook cemetery, in a quiet corner overlooking Main Street, a stone book lies atop a large column memorial for Julia Snowdon Hotchkiss. Its open pages reveal an anonymous quote often referred to by revered rabbis: There is no death/What we call death/Is but surcease/From strife/They do not die/Whom we call dead/They go from life/To life. Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s words from The Little Prince grace Marla Seigel’s pink granite marker: “In one of the stars I shall be living/In one of them I shall be laughing/And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing/When you look at the sky at night.” Hilaire A. Roth rests beneath Robert Burns’ verse from his poem A Red, Red Rose: “So fair you were, my bonnie lass/So deep in love was I/And I will love thee still my dear/Till all the seas go dry.”  It surprised me to find so much poetry nestled amongst the much older and less crowded together, albeit virtually unreadable, headstones in the Greens Farms lower cemetery. Time, wind, water, and moss have erased or obscured much of the script, but some remains clear. For instance, Dorothy Z. Thompson’s family laid her to rest beneath the first lines from Walt Whitman’s A Clear Midnight: “This is thy hour O soul/To fly free among the stars/And ponder the themes/Thou lovest best.” Ghosts of poetic lines adorn, too, the headstones of Betsey Smith and Eliza Whitehead.

Local Authors

If it’s too chilly or muddy or buggy to tramp through local graveyards in search of bards’ words, head to the library and make your way downstairs to the poetry section where ‘local author’ stickers affixed to certain books’ bindings will lead you to homegrown balladry. Westporter Steven Herz composes paens to a painful time in his Marked: Poems of the Holocaust, and our town features prominently in Jonathan Towers’ Westport Poems. And although Regan Good may now reside in Brooklyn, her second collection of poetry, The Needle, harkens back largely to her childhood here in Westport. In the Westport Museum for History and Culture you will find a poem by Robert B. Northrop’s grandfather Robert DeWitt Allen dated March 30, 1900, describing a treacherous schooner trip up the Saugatuck. Captain Sam Allen piloted the Henry Remsen with a steady hand in this excerpt:

With all aboard and under way,/White water in her scuppers lay./Then stood her in around the bluff./He got her in near Eno’s dock,/But could not get by Judy’s rock./That night the wind came in nor’west,/But Sam just raved and could not rest.

— Robert DeWitt Allen

Sara Krasne, the Museum’s Archivist, reports that “Judy’s Rock probably refers to Judy’s Point which was originally called Judah’s Point after David Judah (the first Jewish person to live in Westport).”

Local Newspapers

A newspaper clipping of section reading: The Town Pump

Not far from the poetry section you will find several immense, heavy black leather-bound tomes, in no particular order, stacked on the bottom of one of the metal shelves. Open these to travel back in time to the mid-century past and thumb through the yellowing and fragile pages of Westport’s local newspapers. Features like “Pupil Patter”, “Poems by Pat”, and most prolifically, “Town Pump”, feature original verse by poetic locals.

You will also find news stories about local elementary school poetry competitions, observations of poetry month, and even a poetic letter to the editor of the Westport Town Crier and Herald (July 5, 1957). 

Poetry Box

One local resident in particular does her part to promote Everyday Poetry every day. Donna Ryzinski, who holds an MFA from Goddard College in Vermont, has for the last decade participated in a poetry reading group. Every other week these poetically inclined women congregate and recite a preselected poet’s verse. Each member, the oldest of whom is ninety-five, selects the featured poet and hosts the gathering on a rotating basis. But Ryzinski has taken this love of verse one step – or about three to be exact – further. Roughly that many paces off Sturges Highway in front of her home stands a small wooden box atop a matching post. Her husband fashioned this “best Christmas gift ever” from the door of an Upper West Side brownstone door. About the size of a large toaster oven, a front door of glass faces the street. Since 2015, she has placed a poem inside for all passers-by to stop and read. She prints off and changes the contents roughly once a week, and chooses from a wide variety of poets, as does her poetry reading group. The day I visited it featured a poem by local, well known poet Sophie Cabot Black. Ryzinski says that the poetry box brings her as much joy as she hopes it brings her visitors. She has witnessed two women scale a steep snowbank to access the verse within. One person approached with the reverence of a walking meditation and stood in tadasana (mountain pose) before accessing the words. A woman left tulips and a note: “Thank you for making my walks that much better”. And a gentleman stood in the driveway shouting, “I love this! Never stop doing this!” 

A wooden poetry box with a handle to open

It seems that while no wildly famous poets have made Westport their permanent home, many of their words have alighted here through our many poetry-loving residents. Moreover, many of them have created their own “words, words, words” (Hamlet, II.ii) of their own which, while may not have reached the audience of a Dickenson or Whitman, nonetheless imbue our little hamlet with the spirit of poetry. 

In my role as Westport’s inaugural Poet Laureate I hope  to tease out, encourage, and spread poetry around, knowing that it creates connection and community.  

Special thanks to Sara Krasne for her assistance in researching this article.

A Note From The Executive Director About Re-Opening

Like you, we thrive on the personal interaction that comes with a face to face museum experience. We love nothing more than sharing our passion for history—and bringing it to life—for our patrons from this community and beyond. As museums and cultural institutions around Connecticut are beginning to re-open our visitors have asked us: When will I be able to visit Westport Museum again?

The exciting news is that our Virtual Museum initiative—created to respond to COVID– has allowed us to focus on engaging the public in a way that we never have before, reaching thousands of people weekly and growing. The sad news is that we will be remaining closed—not because we want to, but because we have to.


The reasons are several:

 Even though our state has happily seen a decrease in COVID cases, our museum is housed in an antique building with small rooms and an aged HVAC system. While we follow strict guidelines for surface decontamination, mask and glove protocols, and staggered scheduling for staff working in the building, our space is without air filtration or the cross-ventilation needed to host more than one or two visitors at a time.

Another, equally pressing, reason to remain closed relates to the internal structure of the Bradley-Wheeler House in which the museum is maintained.  At the current time, there is a major structural failure in the center of the building that was left unaddressed for many years and exacerbated by aspects of the way the building was used. This failure was re-identified one year ago during a grant-funded building and collections assessment and we have spent the last twelve months working toward remediation. It will take will take a lot of time and a lot of financial resources to ultimately fix. We will be sharing more details about this soon.

Despite these developments we remain positive. While far from ideal, the COVID closure has allowed us to work under the guidance of professionals to fix both the structural failure and work to save collections and archives that had not been properly assessed, catalogued or preserved for many decades.

We are confident that once we are able to open the Museum to the public, we will do so with a house that is truly in order and prepared to receive guests in safety and security.

In the meantime, we look forward to continuing to engage with you in the virtual realm where it has been gratifying to see attendance—and excitement for our work—grow. Also, this summer: keep an eye out for small-group outdoor tours of historic sites around Westport, that we hope to add to our program offerings.

As always, we thank you for your continued support of Westport Museum for History & Culture and look forward to the day when we can meet again at the Bradley-Wheeler House.

Stay safe, stay well

Ramin Ganeshram

Executive Director

At This Crossroad of History, Which Path Will You Follow?

As modern historians, we try to examine history in a holistic way, looking at all sides, examining all perspectives. To do this, we use primary source information for fact-based story telling. Unlike in the past, where history was the story of the victors, we strive to present history in neutral terms presenting artifacts from an earlier time to objectively inform our decisions in the future.  

The recent protests over the murder of George Floyd–an unarmed Black father—by Minneapolis police has made it clear that in order to gain a truly holistic picture of the past we must now put neutrality aside.  

We must examine our failures in achieving a just and fair society both as a nation and in each and every town within that nation.  We must admit to these failures and to the fact that they have informed the times in which we live today—times that are too often unjust and inequitable especially for communities of color. 

Black Americans continue to have dramatically fewer educational, economic, housing and healthcare opportunities than their white counterparts.  According to the NAACP, although African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately 32% of the US population, they comprised 56% of all incarcerated people in 2015. The New York Times reports that data from Minneapolis indicates that the police force used brutality against Black people seven times more than it did for whites. It is a pattern that exists nationwide. 

In 1968, following a year of dramatic protest and unrest in the demand for Civil Rights, The Kerner Commission, empaneled by President Lyndon Johnson, noted the failure of the American system in its treatment of its Black Citizens.  The report clearly and unequivocally stated: 

 “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal… What white Americans have never fully understood but what the Negro can never forget — is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.” 

These are not facts of a murky past. They continue to be rules of a playbook outlining the systemic and institutionalized racism that is an indelible stain upon the American Republic. 

We often invoke the lessons of history as a way to understand the present and future.  But as we work to engage the community we’ve learned a specific truth: It is the myth of “over there” and “back then” that provides covert shelter to the tree of injustice and sustenance to its poisoned fruit. 

It is not enough to simply present the facts that, in 1939, a health survey commissioned by the town of Westport said “housing of Negroes” was a disgrace contributing to “insanitary conditions” in the town.  It is more accurate to explain that this kind of pernicious bias is but one example of how institutionalized racism in the healthcare system has today resulted in Black Americans being disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 health crisis. 

It is not enough to tell you that, in the 1940s,  Westport’s RTM considered “Negro Housing” at 22 ½ Main Street an embarrassment to the town that was conveniently set ablaze by an arsonist in a conflagration to which the Westport Fire Department did not rapidly respond. The building was completely destroyed and its residents largely left Westport thereafter. It is more accurate to say this appalling history is the forefather of today’s ongoing battle in Westport to block fair, affordable housing opportunities for those considered “lower income”—a population that is disproportionately represented by people of color. 

It is not enough to provide evidence that programs like Project Concern and the Intercommunity Camp—1970s programs to offer the benefits of the Westport school system and town amenities to children of color from under-resourced neighboring towns—were bitterly fought by some Westport residents. Ultimately, the programs proceeded for several years because of the work of dedicated volunteers—many of whom where teenagers. But, it’s more historically accurate to identify the spirit behind the opposition as one of the many reasons why Black children in Westport Schools continue to face micro and overt aggression that prove psychological barriers of entry to the benefits of this “superior” educational system.  

The time has come to not just reveal these facts with the dispassion of an objective observer from many decades hence but to condemn them as unacceptable and incorrect. It is one way we may stand with those who protest injustice against the Black community and communities of color in America today. 

America is a nation born from civil disobedience. Protestors against unjust acts are the standard-bearers of this republic.  History proves this to be true. Colonial governors considered the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party to be uncivil riots. Yet, we know and teach them as the first steps to freedom.  

More than the early actors of the American Revolution or the protestors of the 1960s, the justice warriors of 2020 represent a broad coalition of multi-ethnic Americans, including scholars, journalists, educators and historians. We understand that the events of our shameful collective history must be named in order to change.  This is true in every town and every state across the nation–including Westport.  

As historians, it is our obligation to use our considerable skill and knowledge for the side of right–in order to help rebuild this Republic into what it should have been from the start. We hope you will join us in this commitment by tuning in, and participating in our programming and sharing your own stories via our Oral History platform: Westport In Focus.  

We are at the crossroads of history and we are staring at the signposts above us. One points backwards down a horrible and untenable road. The other points to a better future down a path that is not smooth: It is  a path with twists and hairpin turns. It will, at times, double back and slow our progress.  Still, we must take that path, using the truth of history, fully, as a roadmap for the difficulties behind but also those ahead as we find a way forward. 

We hope you will join us on the journey.

Ramin Ganeshram, Executive Director 

Alicia D’Anna, Operations Director 

Nicole Carpenter, Director of Programs & Education 

Mariet Griffiths, Marketing Manager 

Kathy Nixon, Guest Services 

Catherine Graham, Museum Associate 

Cheryl Bliss, Chairperson 

Char Lukacs, Secretary 

Dannell Lyne, Treasurer 

Sara Krasne, Director 

Greg Porretta, Director 

Kimberly Wilson, Director