The Board of Regents for Higher Education today voted to name the Social Sciences Hall at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) in New Britain the “Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett Social Sciences Hall” after the institution’s first African American graduate.
“On behalf of the Board of Regents and myself, I want to thank all who have educated us about this important figure and advocated on behalf of this naming,” noted President Mark Ojakian. “This building will serve as a permanent reminder of Mr. Bassett’s achievements and legacy of scholarship, activism and diplomacy that is unparalleled in the history of Central Connecticut State University and our state.”
In 1852, Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett was the first African American student at the State Normal School in New Britain, the parent institution to Central Connecticut State University. He graduated with honors in 1853 and embarked upon a teaching career in New Haven. Bassett became the first African American alumnus of the State Normal School in New Britain and remained committed and actively involved in the institution’s Alumni Association.
Bassett ascended to the position of principal at the prestigious Institute for Colored Youth in Philadelphia, the parent institution of Cheyney University and the first Historically Black College in the United States. Under his leadership — which he held for 14 years — the Institute for Colored Youth established a Normal School division whose instruction was based on the education reforms initiated by the Connecticut State Normal School.
He was a significant voice in advocating for civil rights, particularly the right of African American men to enlist in the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War. Bassett was appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant to a diplomatic post as Resident Minister to Haiti in 1869, distinguishing himself as the first African American to hold a United States ambassadorship.
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