Lecture Gives Voice to Remarkable African American Women From Connecticut

Mar 13, 2014

Anna Louise James at the soda fountain where she was pharmacist and owner, Old Saybrook, c. 1909-1911.
Credit Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute / Harvard University

The lives of African American women throughout Connecticut history will be discussed at a lecture titled, "The Struggle for Full Rights as Citizens: The Voice of African Americans at the New Haven Museum," Thursday night at the New Haven Museum.

One of those remarkable African American women is Anna Louise James. She was something of a legend in Old Saybrook, where she ran James Pharmacy for 50 years before retiring in 1967. Customers may not have realized that "Miss James," as she was known, was a pioneer, according to historian Elizabeth Normen.

"In Old Saybrook," Normen said, "Anna graduated from high school, and then went on to attend the Brooklyn College of Pharmacy -- the only woman, and the only African American in her class. She became the first African American woman licensed as a pharmacist in 1909."

Opera Diva Marion Anderson moved to Danbury a year after this iconic 1939 performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Thursday night's lectures will be given by three of the contributing authors of a new book, African American Connecticut Explored, a collection of essays by state historians.

From world-famous opera star Marian Anderson, who lived in Danbury, to U.S. Army Nurse Susan Elizabeth Freeman, who broke the color barrier in the military in World War II, Normen said each story tells of a woman who succeeded in the face of discrimination and other injustices. The free lecture begins Thursday at 6:00 pm at the New Haven Museum at 114 Whitney Avenue in New Haven.