Black & Native Heritage Talcott St. Church Timeline
Rev. James Pennington The Amistad Trial
The Underground Railroad Augustus Washington
James Mars Rebecca Primus
The Eastons Ann Plato
John Hooker What’s Next
ANN PLATO

 

Talcott Street Church catalogue, with Ann Plato’s signature,
courtesy of the Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Ann Plato was a Writer, Poet, and Teacher.

Plato authored a book called Essays: Including Biographies and Miscellaneous Pieces, in Prose and Poetry that was published in 1841, making her the second African American in U.S. history to publish a book of poetry and the first African American woman to publish a book of essays.

Not much is known about Plato historically. Born around 1824, she is presumed to be of both African American and Native American ancestry, based on a poetry piece titled: The Natives of America, wherein the speaker asks her father to tell his story of “how my Indian fathers dwelt.”

Plato was greatly influenced by the Bible and the Talcott Street Church, as well as Lydia Sigourney (pictured below), a renowned American poet and a fellow Hartford resident dubbed the “Sweet singer of Hartford.”

Plato found inspiration in such Sigourney writings as Letters to young Ladies and The Girl’s Reading Book, a work which can be seen in relation to Ann’s own.

Daguerreotype of Lydia Howard Huntley Sigourney by Augustus Washington,
courtesy of Watkinson Library, Trinity College Hartford

The Talcott Street Church—a mountaintop for black Americans living in Connecticut in Plato’s time–was a platform from which she wrote and spoke of her piety as well as the haven in which she could share the gift of education.

She served as teacher in the black school established in the church basement before becoming headmistress of the Elm School, a black school established after the Talcott School.

Dedicated to teaching and molding young minds, and, according to her pastor, Reverend James W. C. Pennington in his introduction to Plato’s volume of poetry and essays, wrote that she was “devoted to the glory of God, and the best good of her readers.”