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Building Home: A Look at the Free Black Communities of Fairfield County

Event Details

Date: November 16, 2023
Time: 6:30 pm
–7:30 pm

Sponsored by

The story does not end with slavery. In this lecture, historians Teresa Vega, local genealogist and family historian, and Maisa Tisdale President and CEO at The Mary & Eliza Freeman Center, will tell us about two free Black communities in Fairfield Country, CT. Originating during time of slavery, Hangroot and Little Liberia outlasted the institution that once bound their residents and created important networks of family and fellowship within the region.

Hangroot, a little known and long-lost Greenwich community of Native and African Americans, was once situated in the north of Greenwich. The name “Hangroot” refers to the use of root cellars and storage of winter vegetables hanging from rafters in the basements. This largely farming community was home to almost 200 people, including Teresa’s ancestors, at its height of its inhabitance.

Little Liberia was a seafaring community of free people of color located in Bridgeport. It boasted Bridgeport’s first free lending library, a school for children of color, businesses, fraternal organizations, and churches. Of about 36 structures that comprised Little Liberia, only the Freeman Houses survive on original foundations. The Freeman Houses are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Come join us to learn about the creation and lasting impact of these incredible communities November 16th, 6:30-7:30.

Hosted on Zoom. Admission is free. Register below.

This Program is done in Collaboration between the Greenwich Historical Society and NorSC (The Northern Slavery Collective).

Speaker Biography

Teresa Vega and Maisa Tisdale

Teresa Vega has dedicated nearly two decades to researching her family history and genealogy. Through her efforts, Teresa successfully traced several maternal mixed-race lines back to Colonial New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Virginia. Notably, she uncovered direct ancestral ties to one of the original 11 Angolans arriving in New Amsterdam in 1626, the first Afro-Dutch who arrived in 1630, the first enslaved Malagasy who arrived in the mid-1600s, and the Munsee (Ramapough) Lenape, whose land was colonized.
Her academic background includes Bachelor's Degrees in Anthropology and Asian Studies from Bowdoin College, where she also served as an adjunct professor in Cultural Anthropology while pursuing her doctoral program at CUNY Graduate School and University Center. This cultural anthropology expertise has significantly enriched her exploration of ancestral roots.
To share her genealogy research with others, Teresa launched her blog, Beyond her blog, she actively contributes to historical societies in the Tri-state region. She is also an advisor to The Witness Stones Project and Newark Public History Project.
Teresa's dedication to preserving African-American heritage extends to her membership in both the NJ and NY Chapters of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAGHS). She is a former YouTube BlackProGen LIVE panelist, lending her expertise to broader discussions on genealogy. Moreover, since 2014, Teresa co-administers FamilyTree DNA's Malagasy Roots Project in partnership with CeCe Moore from PBS's Finding Your Roots, further solidifying her position in the field of genetic genealogy.


Maisa L. Tisdale has advocated for the preservation of the Mary & Eliza Freeman Houses since 1994, and founded the Mary & Eliza Freeman Center for History and Community in 2009 after coordinating a successful movement to save the homes from demolition. Over the past ten years Ms. Tisdale not only focused on the restoration of the Freeman houses, but has worked to create a safer and healthier “built” environment in Bridgeport’s South End – focusing on historic preservation, community development, and climate change.
Ms. Tisdale strengthened her background in African American Studies during her undergraduate years at Yale University, where she earned a BA in Asian Studies. She also studied sociology and history as a postgraduate special student at Columbia University. Maisa Tisdale went on to work as a private contractor for the US Department of State’s Bureau of Education & Cultural Affairs (ECA) for many years; and has worked as: Executive Director of The Ocean Classroom (Bridgeport, CT); Assistant Director of Admission at Fairfield University (Fairfield, CT); and Manager of Sponsorships and Grants, Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center (Mashantucket Pequot

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