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Oct 18, 2019

Our guest, Elisabeth Petry is a journalist. She knows how to uncover a clue, follow a lead, and tell a good story. Her mother was bestselling novelist Ann Petry, whose 1946 debut novel The Street became the first novel by an African American to sell more than a million copies. In this episode, Liz tells us more about her family tree—the James and Lane Families—four generations of strivers and achievers descended from self-emancipated slaves, who settled in New Haven, Hartford, and Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Four hundred family letters survive, many of which contained stories that were fodder for Ann Petry’s novels. Hear more about how Liz and two of her cousins are taking the family’s story to the screen. We join Steve Courtney at the Mark Twain House & Museum as he introduces the lecture from which this podcast was recorded.

We wish to thank our guest Elisabeth Petry and the host for the lecture, the Mark Twain House & Museum. Read more about Liz’s search for her family history in the Fall 2019 issue of Connecticut Explored where you’ll also find Martha Hall Kelly’s story about Caroline Ferriday. You can listen to our podcast with Kelly in episode 34 and to hear more about Barbara Beeching’s research on the black middle class in Hartford, listen to Episode 53 of Grating the Nutmeg. For more information on the James Family project and documentary go to


This episode was produced by Mary Donohue, Assistant Publisher of Connecticut Explored, and engineered by Patrick O’Sullivan.

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