The Student Newspaper of The Loomis Chaffee School

The Loomis Chaffee Log

The Student Newspaper of The Loomis Chaffee School

The Loomis Chaffee Log

The Student Newspaper of The Loomis Chaffee School

The Loomis Chaffee Log

Slavery and Loomis Chaffee: An Ethical History Project

What is a legacy? Who will and who will not be remembered? Loomis Chaffee is an institution whose history is deeply intertwined with that of Connecticut and the Northeast. The story of the founders has been passed down through generations of Loomis students — the idolization of a family faced with tragedy who refurbished their poor circumstances into prosperity — is all that students have ever known. Yet, there are those who were forgotten and forced out of the narrative.

“The space in between the threads,” Eric LaForest, History, Philosophy & Religious Studies Department Head, said. “That’s where the meaning is, too.”

In the Summer of 2021, Karen Parsons, Loomis Archivist and History Faculty, Elliot Dial (History Faculty, Dean of Students, Associate Director of the Center for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion), Mr. LaForest, and a team of students began the process of researching the narratives of the named and known people enslaved by the Loomis, Hayden, and Chaffee families. Alumni Mariapaula Gonzalez ’22, Stacey Zhang ’22, Rachel Cranston ’22, Lillie Szemraj ’22, and Mercy Olagunju ’22 led the research completely online.

“We initially started researching and found information that made us look down in South Carolina in Charleston and Columbia,” Dean Dial said.

Thus, after the Class of 2022 graduated, a team of current seniors continued archiving relevant names, began uncovering new sources based off of the work completed thus far, and took a research trip over the summer. Ignacio Feged ’23, Sal Katz ’23, Riley Fried ’23, Savannah Mills-Hall ’23, Calvin Pan ’23, Chinelo Osakwe ’23, and Kaylie Tan ’23 found records in South Carolina of the Hayden Family, directly related to the Loomis Family.

“We went to Charleston directly to find evidence of other narratives we could look at from a broader perspective,” Kaylie Tan ’23 said. “We went to the College of Charleston Archival Library just to see whether we could uncover a census or document where these people were recorded, not just numbers but names.”

Fried, Osakwe, and Tan joined the three faculty members in Charleston last summer, where they conducted five days of archival research and site visits.

“Working alongside teachers was a completely different dynamic than at school,” Fried said. “We were learning from each other and experiencing new findings at the same time.”

“We would stay in these libraries for hours, and look at every single census, baptist records, anything that had the possibility of containing even a slice of information. It was frustrating, because we kept running into dead ends. The dehumanization of enslaved people showed in these documents — they were reduced to numbers,” Tan said.

After their return to Connecticut, students and faculty processed their research findings and reflected on their deep dive into the past. They built a comprehensive website to organize and share their research and conclusions with the LC community. The website was launched at a community event on May 2 sponsored by the Norton Family Center for the Common Good and Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

The next steps of the process include involving future U.S. History students.

“It’s our opportunity now to take the project further,” Ms. Parsons said. “We want our students to be asking important questions about the world around them as well as give them a sense of agency to do this type of work.”
“We want this reckoning with hard history to show students that they belong here, all kinds of students,” Mr. LaForest said.

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