What Could Have Been:
How New Haven Lost the U.S.’s First Black College
Screening at New Haven Museum
New Haven, Conn. (January 13, 2023) –The New Haven Museum will host a screening of “What Could Have Been,” a documentary created by Community Engagement Program Manager Tubyez Cropper and Director of Community Engagement Michael Morand at Beinecke Library at Yale, on Wednesday, February 22, 2023, at 6 p.m. (Snow date: February 28, 2023). Masks are required in the museum, and space is limited.
“What Could Have Been” confronts the unfortunate history of how Black New Haven leaders helped lead the charge to create the nation’s first Black college in 1831—the dawn of the abolition movement—only to be rejected by white property owners of the city, despite the support of several prominent leaders.
Cropper has spent five years at the library highlighting local and national history that lives in the collections. He has collaborated with local high schools, libraries, museums, historical societies, and churches to convey the importance of access to primary sources in the archives. He has also used his creative eye to direct and produce documentaries and social media content to provide necessary visuals to lesser-known stories.
“The question ‘what could have been?’ genuinely makes you think about what New Haven and the United States could have been like if a historic decision such as the creation of a Black college were approved,” Cropper says. “What would relations have been like between Yale and this college, and what impactful Black figures that we know of today would have attended the college?”
With the documentary, Cropper aims to build awareness of the leading role New Haven played in the development of a growing nation, and the many intellectual and brave people of color who stood at the forefront. “It took valiant Black leaders, like Bias Stanley and Scipio Augustus, along with the courageous abolition mindset of white leaders like Simeon Jocelyn and William Lloyd Garrison to make such an impact on the way the nation progressed,” he says.
“History is so important because acknowledging the past helps us understand the multitude of perspectives that make up this world,” Cropper says. “By understanding the steppingstones that were put in place, at a time where it seemed almost impossible, we can prevent similar things from reoccurring.”
About the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library provides access to one of the world’s largest collections of rare books, manuscripts, and related materials. The collections span thousands of linear feet of manuscript and archival material, ranging from ancient papyri and medieval manuscripts to the archived personal papers of modern writers, artists’ books, photographs, avant-garde, audio-visual and born-digital material. The library is free and open to the public five days a week for research and seven days a week for public exhibition viewing.
About the New Haven Museum
The New Haven Museum has been collecting, preserving and interpreting the history and heritage of Greater New Haven since its inception as the New Haven Colony Historical Society in 1862. Located in downtown New Haven at 114 Whitney Avenue, the Museum brings more than 375 years of New Haven history to life through its collections, exhibitions, programs and outreach. As a designated Blue Star Museum, the New Haven Museum offers the nation’s active-duty military personnel and their families, including National Guard and Reserve, free admission from Memorial Day through Labor Day. For more information visit www.newhavenmuseum.org or Facebook.com/NewHavenMuseum or call 203-562-4183.
What Could Have Been: How New Haven Lost the U.S.’s First Black College Screening at New Haven Museum
What Could Have Been: