our beginnings

As denominations go, the United Church of Christ is new growth from very old roots. In New England, those roots reach back to the Congregationalists and all those white churches dotting town greens across the region. Since the beginning, the UCC has been a church of prophetic "firsts," including: The first African-American (Lemuel Haynes, 1785), first woman (Antoinette Brown), and first openly gay person (William R. Johnson, 1972) ordained to ministry 1700: Rev. Samuel Sewall writes the first anti-slavery pamphlet in America, laying the groundwork for the abolition movement to follow 1959: At the request of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., the UCC sues to ensure that the airwaves are public property. As a result, the civil rights movement will be televised. 2005: The General Synod of the UCC passes a resolution affirming marriage equality for same-sex couples and encourage local congregations to celebrate and bless those marriages.


Here are some interesting documents you can download that will provide insight into our long and eventful history which began in 1742. There are also many historical documents and artifacts relating to United Church archived by the New Haven Museum, 114 Whitney Avenue New Haven CT 06510, 203.562.4183.

the amistad incident

In 1839, 53 Africans were kidnapped from West Africa and sold into the slave trade and brought to Havana, Cuba. Purchased illegally by Spanish planters, they were transferred to the schooner La Amistad for transport. Three days into the journey, led by a 25-year-old Mende rice farmer named Sengbe Pieh, the Africans seized the ship, killed the captain and the cook, and ordered the planters to sail to Africa. After 63 days, La Amistad and her “cargo” were seized near Montauk Point, Long Island, and towed to New London harbor. The Africans were held in a New Haven jail on charges of murder. The case took on historic proportions when former President John Quincy Adams successfully argues before the United State Supreme Court on behalf of the captives. In 1841, the 35 surviving Africans were returned to Africa. United Church members, including brothers Simeon and Nathanial Jocelyn and attorney Roger Sherman Baldwin fed and clothed the captives and campaigned for their release. They even hired a ship to steal the captives away to freedom, if necessary! To be connected to more resources about the Amistad Incident, CLICK HERE.