African American William Lanson’s (1776-1851) life straddled the late 18th and mid-19th centuries. During his life, the self taught master builder, contractor and property owner of what is now Wooster Square earned accolades from New Haven’s Timothy Dwight, President of Yale University, and James Hillhouse, politician, anti-slavery activist and superintendent of the Farmington Canal. Lanson provided strength and leadership to New Haven’s African American community and was elected Black Governor in 1825. Maligned and nearly forgotten, the words of Isaiah Lanson, William’s son, capture his role in shaping Connecticut history and New Haven’s infrastructure.
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