As the sun hit the terra-cotta-colored building, a red hue arose from the brick façade of what used to be Social Sciences Hall. But now, as students hustle in through the doors, walking past the lime-green and eggshell-white walls of the interior, they pass a mural dedicated to the life of Ebenezer D. Bassett. The academic building is fairly new to Central Connecticut State University’s campus. It stands tall, wedged into the lower end of the campus between the Maria Sanford building and Henry Barnard Hall. After a strong lobbying campaign from the New Britain community, as well as students and faculty on CCSU’s campus, the name of the building has officially been changed to Ebenezer D. Bassett Hall, after CCSU’s first African-American alumnus, who graduated from the university in 1853.
Andrew St. Amand, an engineering major at CCSU, was a part of this process. He explained that the goal for both CCSU and the New Britain community to have this building renamed was more apparent than ever—this was only a small portion of what truly took place in March of 2019. “So, there was a lot more involved than just the renaming of the building itself,” St. Amand explains. He sits casually, his blue button-up shirt partially covered by his work badge. “It was kind of a five-step process that the committee was looking to do. So, there’s a whole Ebenezer Bassett committee on campus, and most of it is people from the community. There are a couple New Britain residents and a couple churches in the area that supported it, as well, and really pushed everything.” He went on to explain that in addition to having a building renamed, there is also now a plaque in downtown New Britain dedicated to Bassett. Surprisingly, Ebenezer D. Bassett Hall is the first Connecticut state property to be named after an African American. “Yale has something named after him because he’s from New Haven,” St. Amand explains. “Southern [Connecticut State University] is trying to name something after African-American alumni. We kind of started that whole movement at Central.”
In addition to the building, CCSU has had the Ebenezer D. Bassett award every spring for several years. “We have the Ebenezer D. Bassett achievement awards for students who don’t have a 4.0 GPA, someone who has overcome some type of struggle, [it] kind of goes out to the students who normally wouldn’t be recognized.” In addition to the award there was a scholarship created in Bassett’s name. “He was the first African-American diplomat of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. He was actually the first African-American diplomat of anything.” St. Amand, and almost one hundred other people a part of the CCSU campus and the city of New Britain, Connecticut, worked, determined, to get Bassett recognized. Opening people’s eyes to the life and accomplishments of Ebenezer D. Bassett may help to pave the way for many more African Americans in the past, present, and future to be recognized for their accomplishments.
Rachel Cayon is a staff writer for Blue Muse Magazine.
Headline Image: Rachel Cayon for Blue Muse Magazine.