Ridgefield 8th graders uncover the stories of two people enslaved by one of town's founding families

RIDGEFIELD — Local eighth graders worked to unearth and honor the stories of two former residents who were enslaved by one of Ridgefield's founding families. 

This project was incorporated into the Colonial Era unit of the eighth grade social studies curriculum at East Ridge and Scotts Ridge middle schools. Eighth graders worked with Ridgefield Historical Society and the Witness Stones Project — an organization that works with schools and community groups to “restore the history and honor the humanity” of enslaved individuals in Connecticut — to tell the story of two enslaved individuals held in captivity at the David Scott House. 

The David Scott House was built by David Scott, the patriarch of one of Ridgefield’s founding families who enslaved people. The building now serves as Ridgefield Historical Society’s headquarters.

Annie Tucci, the Ridgefield school district’s humanities coordinator for grades 6-12, said the eight graders were able to culminate their Colonial Era unit by studying the lives of Lidia and Quash, two people enslaved by Scott. She said each of the two middle schools did a case study on an enslaved person from Ridgefield, and the students worked to restore “the humanity of the people they studied."

Students began working on the Witness Stones project in October and they culminated their work in an installation ceremony held at Ridgefield Historical Society on Nov. 15.

Tucci said the eighth graders’ research was done in combination with Ridgefield Historical Society and in partnership with The Witness Stones Project, and that they collected and analyzed primary resources of the town’s history.

Primary resources included census records, wills and testaments collected from the Colonial Era, Scott’s inventory lists, court transcripts and other sources related to the time period students were studying in relation to Ridgefield and the state.

“Because of the work that the students did, they were able to put together the best representation that they would be able to with the limited resources that were available,” Tucci said.

Tucci said the students demonstrated through their work how they had to inference and speculate “to put the put the pieces of the puzzle together,” adding they often wrestled with the fact that “there were more questions than answers” in the course of their research.

It’s through Ridgefield Public Schools’ standards that Tucci said students are able to produce and create questions and be critical thinkers. The nature of historical inquiry, she said, is to create questions while acknowledging that “sometimes we find the answers and sometimes we do not.”

While they were corroborating their primary sources to draw conclusions about Lidia and Quash, Tucci said students had several “aha” moments in the classrooms, especially when they researched the genealogical aspect and made connections to see larger themes in their research.

It was through this project that Tucci said the students demonstrated their ability to be resilient, communicative collaborators.

Tucci also championed the teachers that facilitated and engaged with the students on this project.

“The pride of the teachers was so evident,” she said. “They really rose to the occasion to engage in these challenging resources and the importance of partnership with our local community because our students, I believe, left feeling more connected to our local history.”