Ray Tubbs – Pomp Equality & Pitt Judeth
In the 1790 census, Connecticut had 2,764 slaves, with an additional 2808 who were free non-whites – those being free blacks or native Americans. And, in what is now East Hartford, there were 33 slaves. Of these, only two have markers in Center Cemetery: Pomp Equality and Pitt Judeth.
Pomp was freed at the age of 33 when the state passed its first act of emancipation in 1792 freeing slaves between the ages of 25 to 44. The state could not have the very young or the very old freed but left on their own with no means of support. It was not until 1848 that Connecticut had universal emancipation.
It being a fashion to name slaves after noted figures of history, it is thought Pomp is short for Pompey, a famous Roman general, and that Pomp himself chose his last name of Equality in celebration of his freedom.
It is documented that Pomp was a slave of Town Selectman, Daniel Pitkin, who also owned and ran a tavern at the east-side landing of the ferry connecting Hartford to its Third Parrish – now East Hartford.
No doubt during his years working in the tavern, Pomp made any number of connections that he could later take advantage of as a free man. He apparently did quite well as the owner and master of a schooner or sloop shipping wares and livestock up and down the Connecticut River, affording him the income to acquire a house and property in town.
He owned land on a 14 acre island, which then became known as “Pomp’s Island.” However, through silting it gradually disappeared becoming part of the meadowland just south of the mouth of the Hockanum River.
The Connecticut River, a mercurial, ever-changing tidal river was so difficult to navigate hat anyone who could master the necessary skills do do so, was universally held in high regard and broadly sought after as a ship’s navigator.
While It appears Pomp was a resourceful entrepreneur, a man of substance, and a respected town citizen, sadly nothing more is known about him or his family.
Being a year too old to have been emancipated by the Connecticut Colony’s act of 1792 that freed Pomp, it is fairly certain Pitt Judeth died still a slave.
One might surmise that the quality of the grave marker and the elegance of its fine carving indicates a degree of high regard, if not affection, by the family that owned this person.
It is hoped future research will bring to light the no doubt very interesting life stories of these two individuals that sadly still remain lost in history.