NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — It’s almost 100 years old, but the New Haven Armory has a new designation.
Historians and leaders of the Black community came together Friday to announce that the huge building on Goffe Street is now a site on the Connecticut Freedom Trail.
“The Connecticut Freedom Trail documents and designates sites that embody the struggle for freedom and human dignity,” explained Todd Levine, an architectural historian with the State Historic Preservation Office.
In 1970, two leaders of the Black Panthers were unjustly put on trial for murder. As New Haven filled with protestors, the Armory was the staging point for National Guard troops who were given a chilling order, according to journalist and author Paul Bass, who wrote a book about the Black Panthers trial.
“If you shoot and kill someone on the New Haven Green today, you will not get in trouble. You will not be prosecuted,” Bass said as the soldiers were told.
No one was shot, tensions were controlled, and the charges against the two black panthers were thrown out. Bass credits a coalition of people working behind the scenes to make sure the protests did not get out of hand.
Later on in the 1970s, the Armory hosted what were called Black Expos. These were expositions designed to highlight social and economic concerns in New Haven’s African-American community.
“The Black Expo was a positive, uplifting and a great cultural experience,” said Doris Dumas, president of the Greater New Haven NACCP. “Black businesses, which we did not see a lot of, but the Black Expo had that.”
Since then, the city has used the armory for toy drives and art exhibits, but its future is very much in doubt. At least now, its past will always be recognized.
“Always remember to use facts, truth and use history to not only commemorate the past but to give context to the present and help to impact a brighter future,” said Charles Warner, president of the Connecticut Freedom Trail.
Click here for more information about the Connecticut Freedom Trail and its more than 170 sites.