Litchfield News

Film documents a slave's escape to Litchfield (02-07-18)

Author Regina Mason greets the public after the showing of the film documentary "Gina's Journey: The Search for William Grimes," at the Forman School on Sunday. BZ photos

The Litchfield Historical Society scored a coup on Sunday when it sponsored a screening of a film documenting the life of a slave who escaped from Savannah, Ga., and ended up in Litchfield in the early 19th century.

“Gina’s Journey: The Search for William Grimes” was shown at Forman School's new visual and performing arts center. The film details the effort by Grimes' great-great-great granddaughter, Regina Mason of Oakland, Calif., to uncover the history of her ancestor.

The film is based on the book Grimes co-authored with William L. Andrews, "Life of William Grimes The Runaway Slave," and a narrative Grimes wrote to describe his experience as a slave, his escape on the Underground Railroad, and his life in Litchfield.

A copy of the narrative is contained in the archives of the historical society. Mason, as part of her 15 years of research for the book, traveled to Litchfield in 1998 to read the narrative. She returned six years ago to film a segment for the documentary. That's when historical society Executive Director Cathy Fields hatched the idea to screen the film in town.

After the screening, Mason and the film's director, Sean Durant, took questions form the near-capacity crowd. They later greeted the public at a reception and book signing.

"He'd be happy and proud his story is getting the recognition it deserves," Mason said of her great-great-great grandfather. "I'm blessed to be the one to deliver it."

Grimes worked as a barber in Litchfield, raised a family with his wife, and owned a home, although he lost the home when he had to buy his freedom after a former owner of his discovered him living in Connecticut. 

Historical society Executive Director Cathy Fields with Regina Mason and the film's director, Sean Durant.


Janet and Carl Hooper of Goshen attended the screeing.

Judy Buckbee of the Mary Floyd Tallmadge Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and Ken Buckbee of the Gov. Oliver Wolcott Sr. Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution.

Regina Mason signs a copy of the book she co-wrote.

Clifford and Jeannine Cooper of Litchfield.

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