A community history
Presented in collaboration with the Salisbury Association Historical Society and the Hotchkiss Library
What do the words “We Noble African Citizens”, the date July 4th 1870, and the Appalachian Trail name “Caesar Brook Campsite” all have in common with a 19th Century African American Salisbury CT family?
The answer involves a wonderful story of an 18th and 19th Century African American family that starts with a Revolutionary War veteran and continues through with deep roots in the Salisbury and Sharon communities until the late 1930s.
When Rae Eleanor Williams graduated from Lakeville High School in 1936 and left to attend college at Howard University in Washington, DC, she became the last of 5 generations of the Cesar family who had a connection to the Northwest corner of Connecticut that spanned over 140 years.
The Cesar family descendent and historian, Katherine Overton, shares this remarkable unknown chapter in our local Salisbury history in a conversation with historian and teacher Rhonan Mokriski
Up until now, black people have been invisible citizens who were left out of our history books. As Americans, we all need to know this history. This deficit has recently become more visible in the news and in various media outlets. It is important to know more about African families who have lived in our own region since at least the early 1800’s.
People in the Northwest corner may not be aware that black people have lived here almost from the founding of the town, and there has been a continuous black population. The reason they don’t know this is not because it hasn’t been hidden, it has been ignored. The Cesar family lived here, owned land, and contributed to the community starting in 1804. For example, most people do not know that the “Caesar Brook Campsite” on the Appalachian Trail in Sharon was once owned by a black family! The man who bought it was Overton’s great, great, great Grandfather George L. Cesar. He owned over 130 acres of land on Sharon Mountain.
We are now in a moment when people are looking at people of color in a new way. These stories are important and must be told. While Americans know the institution of slavery, they do not always know that it was not the whole story of the Black experience in America. Free African American families also contributed to the building of our communities. By looking at our local history and incorporating all these stories, we can continue to build a more inclusive community.
Join us to learn more about this remarkable family as told by descendant and Cesar family historian, Katherine Overton in conversation with Rhonan Mokriski.