The Overview


In the months leading up to Castle Church’s opening on June 9, 2019, we began envisioning the beautification of an unused courtyard adjacent to the former bank that we renovated and now occupy.

Next Day Mercy, a race and justice initiative of Castle, identified Sarah Harris Fayerweather and James Lindsey Smith, two notable black history figures in Norwich, as the subject of a main mural at the site and the first phase of our initiative.

“I was then keeping shop in Chapman’s Block, on Franklin Square, when the proclamation of freedom was proclaimed; it sent a thrill of joy through every avenue of my soul. I exclaimed, ‘Glory to God, peace on earth, and good will to men,’ for the year of jubilee has come! His glorious Proclamation of Emancipation will stamp the first of January, 1863, as the day of days; the great day of jubilee to millions.”

— James L. Smith, autobiography, 1881

The Story


James Lindsey Smith is one of Norwich’s most inspiring historical figures. His life, which is detailed in his 1881 autobiography, offers lessons for all of us, no matter where we live.

He escaped from slavery, completed a dangerous journey by land and water despite a childhood injury that left him permanently injured in one leg, and eventually became a successful businessman and faithful minister in our city.

His persevering spirit embodies our motto at Castle, which is Nevertheless. Smith passed the baton of freedom on through the generations with the message that together we rise.

“How many mighty obstacles must fall.”
— James L. Smith, autobiography, 1881

The Journey


This May, a team from Castle retraced Smith’s four-day journey on the 184th anniversary of his escape.

The purpose of “James Lindsey Smith — The Journey Toward Freedom,” was to feature Smith’s humanity, particularly his spirit of resilience in the face of tremendous risks and obstacles, and stir empathy for such struggles today.

The approximated retracing will took us from Virginia, through Maryland and Delaware, and to Philadelphia, where he first finds work. This historic trip features the Underground Railroad and a boat ride on the Chesapeake Bay, all the while using Smith’s very own words in his autobiography as our guide.

This experience was captured on video to be forever linked to the mural of Smith. A QR code at the site of the coming mural will allow you to watch the our journey and see how it ties into the story of Jubilee Park.

Thank you to the Norwich Historical Society, Norwich branch of the NAACP, City Historian Dale Plummer, Otis Library and more for their support.

The Mural


We will feature James Lindsey Smith, whose story is noted above, and Sarah Harris Fayerweather.

Fayerweather, a contemporary of Smith and fellow resident of the historic Jail Hill neighborhood, was the first black student at Prudence Crandall’s all-white boarding school for women in Canterbury.

Harris’ admittance led many of the wealthy parents to withdraw their daughters. Crandall remained steadfast and converted the school into a higher education academy for black women only in 1833, according to the Prudence Crandall Museum. Connecticut retaliated by passing the Black Law, making the school illegal. Crandall endured jail and three court trials before the case was dismissed in 1834. Two months later, a mob attacked the school and Crandall was forced to close the academy.

Harris and her husband, who named one of their children, Prudence Crandall Fayerweather, went on to become “conductors” on the UnderGround Railroad. They often met with noted abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass, according to the Norwich Historical Society.

The Models


Robenson Charlotin, a worship leader at Castle, is the model for James Lindsey Smith. Using a picture from Smith’s autobiography and period clothing, Rebecca Bayreuther Donohue, a historic costume consultant with the Dirty Blue Shirts, transformed Charlotin to represent Smith.

Charlotin’s own life is a testament to the resilience and perseverance of immigrants everywhere. He was displaced by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, embarking on a journey that led him against the odds to eventually settle in Norwich.

Olivia Langford is the great-great-great-great niece of Sarah Harris Fayerweather. Using 19th century clothing courtesy of the Cromwell Historical Society and a photo courtesy of the Prudence Crandall Museum, Donohue transformed Langford to represent Fayerweather.

On Langford’s first visit to the courtyard for a video and photo session, the moment brought her to tears as she took in the significance to her family.

Olivia Langford is the great-great-great-great niece of Sarah Harris Fayerweather. Using 19th century clothing courtesy of the Cromwell Historical Society and a photo courtesy of the Prudence Crandall Museum, Donohue transformed Langford to represent Fayerweather.

On Langford’s first visit to the courtyard for a video and photo session, the moment brought her to tears as she took in the significance to her family.

The Artist


Ben Keller’s self-described passion is “merging vision with reality.” His murals can can be seen across Connecticut and the East Coast, including in Manchester, New Haven, Hartford, and Torrington. His work includes racial justice murals featuring Martin Luther King Jr. and other black history figures.

His start includes a solo exhibit as a teenager at The Gallery at Wauregan, which is directly across from the site of the Smith-Fayerweather mural.

The Park


The Smith-Fayerweather mural is part of a larger community-building initiative to activate an underutilized blighted property. We are working with the Yale Urban Design Workshop and city and community leaders to eventually provide a park with accessibility to free music and art and outdoor events.

James L. Smith Walk

$8,000

Fully funded!

Mural

$40,000

In progress

Yale Urban Design Courtyard Plans

$35,000

Fully funded!

How you can help

To sponsor the walk and support the mural and related place-keeping work to convert the site to a park, give here:

Giving & Donations

“Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” Isaiah 58:12