1636 Providence settlement is established
1639 Newport settlement is established on southern end of Aquidneck Island.
1640 Dr. John Clarke grants land to the Town of Newport to establish a Common Burying Ground for all residents regardless of race, creed and class.
1652 Colony of Rhode Island adopts a law abolishing African slavery, where “black mankinde” cannot be indentured more than ten years. The law is largely unenforced.
1660 Charles II, King of England orders the Council of Foreign Plantations to devise strategies for converting slaves and servants to Christianity. Continue reading
One of the least researched and publicly presented subjects in the history of WWI has been the contributions of African American women both home and abroad. Throughout the war years, women of color contributed to the war effort in important ways individually and through services organizations including the YWCA and American Red Cross. One extraordinary contribution by an African American woman buried within the pages of WWI and American history, is the story of Dr. Harriet Alleyne Rice. Continue reading
This news article of 1918 comes from our family collection that includes items from my great uncle, Charles Henry Barclay who during WWI served as a 1st Lieutenant with the 372nd regiment in France. The article describes the concerns that African American (Negro) soldiers were being given more dangerous combat duties as compared to white soldiers. The American Expeditionary Forces during the war were commanded by General John “Black Jack” Pershing who responds directly to the reports as false and that the “Negroes were in high spirits and that their only complaint was that they were not given more active service.” Those comments coming from General Pershing are historically relevant due to his own interaction with African American troops that dated back to 1892 when he took command of the 10th Cavalry Regiment, nicknamed the “Buffalo Soldiers.” During the Spanish American War, Pershing would lead the 10th Cavalry on the famous charge at San Juan Hill joining the famous Rough Riders of future President Theodore Roosevelt. Pershing’s command of African American troops leading up to the First World War would enthuse his fellow officers to give him the nickname, “Black Jack” largely as a sardonic description of his command. Continue reading
By 1918, as America entered the First World War, the political and military consensus was that African American soldiers would not fight alongside white soldiers in combat. Although American soldiers of color were ready to fight and die for their country, many who would serve under an American flag would be relegated to supporting roles and labor regiments. The French however, had no misgivings about utilizing black troops. Allied American and French commanders agreed that segregated black regiments would fight with the French Army under the command of French commanding officers. Continue reading
On Saturday, August 16, 2014 at 11am as part of the City of Newport’s 375th Anniversary Celebration, members of the African Alliance of Rhode Island will come together to oversee a ceremony to recognize and celebrate the thousands of persons of West African heritage that once lived, worked, worshiped and died in Colonial Newport that are represented by the several hundred burial markers that remain in God’s Little Acre.
The African Alliance of Rhode Island (aari) is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of Africans living in the State of Rhode Island. Dating back to 17th century, Rhode Island has been home to many from the continent of Africa. Today, there are over seventy-five thousand Africans from forty African countries living in Rhode Island. Continue reading
Gilded Age Newport
1696 Heritage Group is happy to announce that we have received a grant from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities for our fall program Gilded Age Newport in Color. This program is hosted by the Preservation Society of Newport County and will be held at Rosecliff, in historic Newport, Rhode Island on October 16th, 2014. Continue reading
‘Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
“Their colour is a diabolic die.”
Remember, Christians, Negro’s, black as Cain,
May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.
– P. Wheatley
Most people would recognize the name Phillis Wheatley as the first published African woman poet in America. Believed to have been born in Senegal, she was sold into slavery at the age of seven to the Wheatley family of Boston. Recognizing her potential, they taught her to read and write, and supported her later writings in poetry. Wheatley would convert to Christianity and become an active member of the Old South Meeting House in Boston. Constantly in ill health, she would die young at the age of thirty-one. Continue reading