Not all the politicians who joined Saturday's annual African American Parade in Hartford were modern-day officeholders. A few came from the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Members of a local cultural history center marched in full period costume representing early American black governors who were influential leaders in black communities during the slavery era and acted as liaisons with the white community.
"People need to know, yes, we did have slavery in Connecticut," said Joseph R. Alleyne, dressed as "Tobias," a Revolutionary War veteran who was governor in Derby in the early 1800s. "We had black politicians way back, recognized by their own people."
Alleyne was one of several marchers representing the John E. Rogers African American Cultural Center at the 14th annual parade, celebrating a theme this year of African American history.
"Whether it's politics, dance, a big variety of things ... it's very important to know our culture," Christina Johnson, a member of the parade committee, said as participants waited for the parade to begin under gray skies at Bushnell Park.
The weather held down the number of participants and spectators, officials said.
"Can you bring us some sunshine?" said Ula Dodson, head of the African American Parade Day Committee. The parade included various civic and cultural groups, performers such as a drill team, and police and fire officials.
"We get to go through the streets where many of us have grown up," said Hartford Fire Chief Charles A. Teale Sr. "It's a chance for us to reach out to the community, especially young people, and make them aware of the Hartford Fire Department."
Among the participants were mayoral candidates I. Charles Mathews, a Democrat, and J. Stan McCauley, a Republican.
"This is the official campaign vehicle," said McCauley, riding a green bicycle alongside his wife, Nyesha, who rode a white bicycle. The parade, he said, "demonstrates pride and uplifts the community in general."
Mathews said the parade shows that one of the city's strengths is its diversity. "Whether it's the Italian parade, the Irish parade or this parade," he said, "it's an opportunity to bring all the cultures together."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at