Middle School Students Design Banners Celebrating Historic Little Liberia Community

From Housatonic Museum Of Art:

Broad Street in Bridgeport has a new look thanks to a series of banners that celebrate the City’s rich history. Ten colorful banners, designed by Bridgeport middle school students, honor Bridgeport’s seaside village known as Little Liberia.

Through the Housatonic Museum of Art’s (HMA) Student Docent program middle school students from Beardsley School, Geraldine Johnson School or John Winthrop School worked with Artist-in-Residence Paula Frisch to learn about the history of this unique community. The banners created by the students highlight the people who lived and worked there. The Downtown Special Services District partnered with the Museum to facilitate the installation along Broad Street, and the Werth Family Foundation and Housatonic Community College Foundation funded the project.

Comprised of freed blacks, runaway slaves and Native Americans, the Little Liberia community began in 1821, just as the township of Bridgeport was incorporated. In time, the small settlement for ‘free people of color’ grew into a thriving village in the City’s south end.

“Although the Pandemic delayed the installation of the banners, there a silver lining in that the banners are being installed to coincide with the celebration of Bridgeport’s 200th year Anniversary. We are pleased that our Student Docent Program will highlight the hidden history of Little Liberia and support the great work by Maisa Tisdale on behalf of the Freeman Houses and showcase the artistic talent of our middle school students,” said Robbin Zella, Director of Housatonic Museum of Art.

The Housatonic Museum of Art Student Docent Program supports curriculum frameworks in grades 5-8. Students analyze and interpret primary sources, identify meaningful pieces of evidence to support a claim, create visual representations of their learning and share their ideas with others. Students examine maps, seals and symbols, artifacts, and architecture–all within walking distance of the Housatonic Museum of Art. To date, over 1800 students have participated in the program.

“The Bridgeport DSSD was so happy to assist the Housatonic Museum of Art to install the gorgeous banners created by the Student Docent Program. The rich history of Little Liberia that they uncover is inspirational, and the designs add dashes of color to the Downtown neighborhood. We thank the students and congratulate the Housatonic Museum of Art on the program’s success,” said Lauren Coakley Vincent, President and CEO of the Bridgeport Downtown Special Services District.

The Housatonic Museum of Art is located on the Housatonic Community College campus, 900 Lafayette Blvd. in Bridgeport, CT. It is home to one of the premier college art collections in the United States. The museum’s collection offers the opportunity to view works that span the history of art from the ancient to the contemporary and is on continuous display throughout the 300,000 square foot facility. Visit www.HousatonicMuseum.org to learn more.

The Bridgeport Downtown Special Services District (DSSD) serves the vibrant and diverse businesses within the 30 blocks in of our heart-shaped neighborhood. Our role at the Bridgeport DSSD is to support the needs of growing businesses in the district, from keeping the Downtown clean and friendly, connecting them to city resources to offering free marketing and advertising, and everything in between. Throughout the year we deliver sanitation services, our friendly team of Ambassadors keep the district clean and safe, we promote the district through the dynamic Colorful Bridgeport campaign, and produce community events including the Downtown Farmers Market. Learn more at www.colorfulbridgeport.com.



  1. Is this why it takes so long to get things done in Down Town.
    There are so many partnerships in just putting up some banners that everyone thinks it’s someone else’s job.

  2. Imagine reading this article and editing it down to banners, urban partnerships, and getting things done. About the last, now word or question from the writer as to what his purposes and priorities might be. Not unusual.
    As a resident of Bridgeport for more than three decades, an observer and commentator on happenings in the town square, I am impressed by the participation of public school students in creative work that teaches history as well. I am also impressed by the network of DSSD with $ contacts probably to pay for banners and getting them raised, the Housatonnic Museum of Art with treasures too numerous for most citizens to understand, especially with COVID around, and the worthy restoration of the Freeman property coordinating with City celebration of 200th anniversary of Bridgeport becoming a town.
    Bob, had a youthful family member or yours been responsible for any of the art work created for the event and banners, how would you feel about a community troll who referred to such public works, as, just “some banners”? (I do not answer the research questions Bob advises me to take up, so I do not expect an answer from him on this question. After all, the answer is present in his personal attitude to everything.) Time will tell.

  3. Marina Apartment was located at Main St, Board St. and Railroad Ave. not to be confuse with Marina Village, Little Liberia is locared on Main St. and I was a young child living at 415 Main St. on the third floor in Marina Apartment which right across the street from Little Liberia and I look from our living room window watching the people who would come and go from there in the 1950’s. The way the house looks was so different than other houses in the south end.

    I never knew the history of Little Liberia until Charlie Tisdale took up the cause of saving that area.


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