American Irony: Religious Freedom & African Enslavement in Colonial Newport

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Newport, Rhode Island in the mid-18th century embodied two marked ironies. Settled a century earlier on the principles of religious freedom and civil liberties, the fledging colony would attract many of the world’s most persecuted religious minority groups including Quakers, Baptist, and Jews. These same religious minorities would also enjoy the vast economic prosperity of trading and owning enslaved Africans. Between 1705 and 1805, Rhode Island merchants, largely from Newport, would sponsor nearly 1,000 slaving voyages to West Africa carrying back nearly 100,000 enslaved Africans to America and the West Indies. By 1755, Newport was a leading slave port in the American colonies. Continue reading