BRIDGEPORT — The Mary and Eliza Freeman homes in the city’s South End are among the oldest standing homes built and owned by African American women in the nation.

They aren’t much to look at, as the ravages of time have taken their toll. But a group, the Mary and Eliza Freeman Center For History and Community, has been trying for the past decade to secure this historic treasure for posterity.

On Friday, Keith W. Stokes, vice president of the 1696 Heritage Group, and a descendant of Bridgeport’s pre-Civil War era African American community, will discuss “Legacies of Slavery & Freedom: A Family Journey through the Atlantic World,” from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Burt Chernow Galleries at Housatonic Community College.

Stokes’ presentation will connect the so-called Little Liberia neighborhood of Bridgeport, with several of the most important historic places and events in the history and freedom that connected both sides of the Atlantic — West Africa, United Kingdom, Jamaica, Philadelphia and Newport, R.I.

The talk is $12. For $55, participants will get a membership to Freeman Center and an invitation to the after-talk reception.

Little Liberia was a seafaring community of free people of color. It boasted a luxurious seaside resort hotel for wealthy blacks (cited in a letter to Frederick Douglass), the city’s first free lending library, a school, businesses, fraternal organizations and churches. Of about 36 structures that made up the community, only the houses once owned by sisters Mary and Eliza Freeman survive.

The presentation Friday evening will include images of family heirlooms from Little Liberia between 1840 and 1900.

“Keith Stokes understands what we are trying to do here in Bridgeport,” said Maisa L. Tisdale, executive director of the Freeman Center. “The historic Mary and Eliza Freeman Houses are rare examples of African American life prior to Emancipation. He will connect the dots for listeners regarding Little Liberia and the rest of the world.”

Stokes is a lecturer in community and regional planning, historic preservation and interpretation with an expertise in early African and Jewish American History.

He has served on numerous regional and national historic preservation boards including serving as chairman of the Touro Synagogue Foundation, vice president and trustee of the Preservation Society for Newport County in Rhode Island and as a board member of the Newport Historical Society. He has worked in business, history and community development with degrees from Cornell University and the University of Chicago.

He is a native of Newport.

jburgeson@ctpost.com