'Black governors' provide lesson from history of Norwich, slavery By DOROTHY SCHNEIDER Norwich Bulletin NORWICH -- Peter Roach, acting as "Black Governor" Boston Trowtrow, addressed a crowd Monday at Norwich Free Academy's Slater Auditorium, booming: "It's good to be home." The Norwich Historical Society hosted presentations by Roach and two others members of the Black Governors' Breakfast Club, who portrayed fellow elected black leaders, Sam'l Huntington and Ira Tossett. Khoi Ton/Norwich Bulletin Lewis Randall as Ira Tossett, left, Eugene Greene as Sam'l Huntington, center, and Peter Roach as Boston Trowtrow portray three historical black leaders from Norwich. They wait to speak Monday at the annual meeting of the Norwich Historical Society at Norwich Free Academy's Slater Hall. The society's presentation offered a glimpse into the lesser-known lives of early black leaders. Black governors were slaves or freemen elected by their peers between 1749 and 1856 to represent their community. Norwich had three of them. Unlike many politicians today, the black governors dealt little in bureaucracy and focused more on being community leaders. The governors performed marriage and burial ceremonies, presided at ceremonial events and made judgments in certain disputes. Trowtrow, who is buried in the Norwichtown Cemetery, served a two-year term as governor of Connecticut's slaves and free blacks. But like other black leaders, Trowtrow helped his fellow slaves resist the psychological captivity of slavery, said Katherine Harris, associate professor of African American Studies at Central Connecticut State University. "It was a display of humanity in a state and country where there was none for them," Harris said. And even during a period of history where blacks were oppressed, Harris said the black governors system was accepted by white society. "This was very serious business in both the black and white communities," she said. The black governor system was an evolution of the ruling systems in place in the African communities where slaves lived before they were brought to the colonies. Harris said the black leaders had different titles -- even "king" -- in other states, but the role was similar. Historians lack details about the lives of the black governors. Still, Harris and her colleagues say the black governors were outgoing, intelligent and charismatic and were "good talkers." In fact, after a failed escape attempt from his master in 1803, Tossett talked his way into freedom, said Lewis Randall, a Norwich native who portrayed Tossett. Tommie Major of New London said the stories shared Monday showed, "even back then the power of education helped you succeed." And Steve Meyer, a Norwich resident, said the information recently collected by those researching black governors shows the need for frequent updates in history education. "History changes," he said. "So even from what you learned in school, it's not always up to date." Reach Dorothy Schneider at 425-4231 or [email protected] bulletin.com ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I wonder what has happen to being a black 'governor' in today's society? You dont even have to be elected to office or disturb the status quo to be one. Even white people accepted them at a certain level. Plus it did not mean you speak for every black person the world over just within the community. Something of similar discussion came up with this topic on Is it time today's church give the pastor and/or priest a break? Our enslaved ancestor while in capitivity knew more than anything taught by "greater society" about them in your public schools.