STONINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) — Stonington middle school students held a ceremony on Friday to honor the life of an enslaved man and parishioner at the First Congregational Church.

Eighth-grade students worked alongside their civic teachers to research the life of Cato Cuff, a man born into enslavement around 1760. The students used records from the Witness Stone Project, an organization that seeks to restore history and honor to the enslaved people of Connecticut.

The students pieced together details of his life by pouring through church, probate and military records.

“He endured heartbreak and misery and was only freed after serving in the military,” one student said. 

Students wanted to give Cuff the respect he deserved, by honoring his life in the special Witness Stone ceremony at the First Congregational Church, in the church where he worshipped and married.

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Stonington’s First Selectwoman Danielle Chesebrough (D- Conn.) was proud to see the students learn from the town’s and in part her family’s history. 

“There’s hard parts to all of our histories that we have to address,” Chesebrough said.

The students also discovered there were 219 enslaved people here in town so the Witness Stone Project will continue with future 8th-grade classes learning about a new person each year. 

Cuff received official recognition in this proclamation from the town’s state representatives and senator and with this Witness Stone which will cement his place in history at the First Congregational Church.