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.
1660 – 1730 Narragansett’s largest land-owning planters include Updike, Hazard, Champlin, Robinson and Stanton that own at least 1,000 acres. By 1730, enslaved Africans represent about 15% of areas total population.
1663 On July 8th, King Charles II grants the Colony of Rhode Island a Charter that guarantees religious toleration.
1676 As a direct outcome of the King Phillip’s War (1675-1676), surviving Natives are enslaved in Rhode Island.
1680 According to the colonial census, there were 175 Native and Negro slaves in Rhode Island.
1683 On March 30th, Negro servant Salmardore is emancipated by his master John Champlin in Newport.
1696 The first documented slave ship the Boston bound, “Sea Flower” arrives in Newport.
A Negro named Peter Pylatt was executed at Newport for the crime of rape, after which his body was hung in chains on Miantonomi Hill.
1703 Rhode Island General Assembly adopts an early “Negro Code” to restrict activities of free and servant Negros and Indians stating, “If any negroes or Indians either freemen, servants, or slaves, do walk in the street of the town of Newport, or any other town in this Colony, after nine of the clock of night, without certificate from their masters, or some English person of said family with, or some lawful excuse for the same, that it shall be lawful for any person to take them up and deliver them to a Constable.”
1705 A Negro burying section of the Common Burying Ground is established. It is later known to the African American community as “God’s Little Acre.”
1708 Enslaved Africans outnumber indentured white servants in Newport 10:1
1709 A duty of three pounds was placed on every Negro imported into the colony.
1709 – 1809 Rhode Island merchants sponsored nearly 1,000 slaving voyages to the coast of Africa and carried over 100,000 slaves to the New World. Before the American Revolution, Newport was the leading slave port and after would be Bristol. Rhode Island’s slave traders transported more slaves than the other British North American colonies combined during the 18th century.
1713 Rhode Island merchants introduced rum on the African coast; the “new” liquor quickly becomes a chief source for trade of slaves.
1714 Colony of Rhode Island enacts a law that bans any ferryman from transporting a slave “without a certificate in their hand from their master or mistress or some person in authority.”
1715 The General Assembly of Rhode Island officially authorizes African enslavement by requiring a listing of imported slaves and a per head fee payment to the Naval Officer upon arrival.
1725 In Warwick, Rhode Island on July 28, 1725, Hager, a “negro” slave, was willed 10 shillings and her children were bequeathed 5 shillings each by Captain Peter Green.
1739 Venture Smith who was born Broteer Furro from Guinea is brought to Newport as a 10 year old slave boy. He would later as a free man author, “Adventures of Venture, a Native of Africa: But Resident above Sixty Years in the United States of America, Related by Himself.”
1741-1763 Several of Newport’s most important civic structures, Old Colony House, Redwood Library, Brick Market and Touro Synagogue are built with the participation of enslaved and free African skilled labor.
1743 The Reverend Honyman of Newport Trinity Church in a June 1743 letter reports that his church is in very flourishing and improving condition, “there are in it a very large proportion of white people and one hundred Negroes who constantly attend the worship of God.”
The Reverend James McSparren of Narragansett’s St. Paul’s Church noted that “70 slaves and Indians were members of his church.
1750 The General Assembly of Rhode Island enacts a law that “prevents all persons keeping house within this Colony from entertaining Indian, Negro or Mulatto slaves or servants.”
1752 In December of that year, Cuffee Cockroach an enslaved African cook of Jaheel Brenton prepared a feast that featured a sea turtle stew for a community gathering held at Fort George, on Goat Island. The “Turtle Frolic” became an annual celebration.
1755 Africans represent approximately 20% of entire Newport population.
1756 Newport Africans begin to assemble each June at corners of Thames and Farewell Streets to elect a “Negro Governor” – a mixture of European and African traditions. This West African tradition is later seen in Boston, Providence, Portsmouth, NH and Connecticut.
1750-1780 Hundreds of Africans in Newport are converted into Christianity as part of the Great Awakening Religious Movement sweeping across American Colonies. Trinity Church, along with First and Second Congregational Churches lead the conversion activities.
1758 Sarah Osborn establishes a school for religious and civic instruction for white and black children under the support of Newport’s Second Congregational Church.
1763 Rev. Marmaduke Brown of Trinity Church opens a school for African children.
1766 A group of free and enslaved Africans take a picnic in Portsmouth led by Caesar Lyndon, personal secretary and clerk for Governor Josiah Lyndon.
1767 Phyllis Wheatley of Boston, America’s earliest African woman poet has her first poem published in the Newport Mercury newspaper in 1767. During the time, Wheatley is close friend of fellow African woman of Newport Obour Tanner.
1768 Signed by “A True Son of Liberty,” an article appears in the Newport Mercury Newspaper under the caption, “If you say you have the right to enslave Negroes, because it is for your interests, why do you dispute the legality of Great Britain enslaving you?”
1772 Mary Brett with support from Trinity Church opens a second school for African children at her High Street (Division Street) home in Newport.
Mintus Northrup is born into slavery in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. He is the father of Solomon Northrup, author of “12 Years A Slave.”
British Customs Schooner, HMS Gaspee is looted and burned off the coast of Warwick. One of the participants is enslaved Aaron Briggs from Prudence Island.
1773 Fortune, listed as an “abandoned Negro,” reportedly set fire to the Long Wharf in Newport causing £80,000 in damage. He is executed for his crime.
1774 Africans John Quamino and Bristol Yamma are sent to study at College of New Jersey (the future Princeton University) to train as Christian Missionaries. These will be the first Africans to attend college in America. The plan is devised by Rev’s Samuel Hopkins and Ezra Stiles of Newport.
1776 American Revolution begins.
Rev. Samuel Hopkins of First Congregational Church in Newport authors “A Dialogue Concerning the Slavery of Africans” that he presents to the Continental Congress stating slavery is incongruous to the ideals of American civil and personal liberty.
In a June 6, 1776 letter from John Quamino of Newport to Moses Brown of Providence, Quamino thanking him for emancipating his servants and his “boundless benevolence with regards to the unforfeited rights of the poor and unhappy Africans of this province.”
1778 The 1st Rhode Island Regiment is reformed including 132 enslaved and free African and Indian men. Later to be called the “Black Regiment” they fight with great valor in the Battle of Rhode Island in August, 1778.
1780 A group of free African men meet in the Newport home of Abraham Casey and form the Free African Union Society, the first such society in America.
1781 Rhode Island General Assembly rules in favor of a petition of Quarco Honyman, former slave to the Honyman family that he had served his country during the war and is deemed a free man.
1784 General Assembly of Rhode Island grants the gradual emancipation of slaves. Slaves born before 1784 were to remain slaves for life.
1785 Eleanor Eldridge, a free Mulatto woman was born in Warwick and would go on to become a well-known land and business owner in Providence. In 1838 her memoirs are published describing the life of a free African American woman in Rhode Island.
1786 John Brown of Providence in a November 26, 1786 letter to his brother Moses states, “I lately heard several respectable people say that the merchants of Newport scarcely earned any property in any other trade, that all the estates that had ever been acquired in that town had been got in the trade in slaves from Guinea.”
1787 Anthony Taylor, President of the African Union Society sends letters promoting the return to Africa by free Africans in Newport. In the letter, Taylor describes the situation for Africans in Rhode Island as “strangers and outcasts in a strange land.”
Anthony Taylor and Salmar Nubia of Newport send a letter to Cato Gardner and London Spear of Providence instructing them to urge their fellow African Union Society members to not participate in the African slave trade.
1789 New Goree community is established in Bristol, RI by free Africans. Today the neighborhood is bordered by Wood and Bay View Avenue.
Members of the Free African Benevolent Society in Newport actively develop a plan to return to Africa.
1790 The Providence Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery is incorporated.
1792 African Charity “Duchess” Quamino dies in Newport; recognized as the “Pastry Queen of Rhode Island” and one of the most successful African women entrepreneurs of her time. Her marker is inscribed by Reverend William Ellery Channing.
1793 Sixty-three former members of the Rhode Island 1st (Black) Regiment petition to receive pensions for service during the American Revolution.
1800 Five free Africans own homes on the section of Pope Street in Newport between Spring and Thames streets referred to as “Negro Lane.”
James DeWolf of Bristol is one of the most active slave traders in America during late 18th and early 19th centuries.
1800 -1870 During that era and led by the Hazzard family, 84 “Negro cloth” mills opened in Rhode Island. Rhode Island industrialists bought and processed slave-picked cotton, while southern slaveholders purchased Rhode Island manufactured cloth for themselves and their slaves.
1803 Former enslaved African Nkrumah Mireku becomes the first published African musical composer in America; songs include “Crooked Shanks” and the religious anthem “The Promise.”
1808 In March the Free African Benevolent Society of Newport establishes the first free African school (private) in America on School Street.
1809 The Free African Female Benevolent Society is established in Newport with founding members including Obour Tanner and Sara Lyna.
1812 During the War of 1812, free African Hannibal Collins of Newport along with other African sailors were present at the Battle of Lake Erie under the command of Newport Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry.
1814 The narrative of William J. Brown of Providence is published. Entitled The Life of William J. Brown with Personal Recollection of Incidents in Rhode Island.
1819 African Union Society in Providence evolves into the African Meeting House and later Congdon Street Baptist Church.
1822 Black men are barred from voting in Rhode Island.
1824 The Free African Benevolent Society evolves into the Union Colored Congregational Church located in old Baptist Meeting House on Division Street.
Hardscrabble, a predominately black community in Providence is rocked by a race riot.
1826 On January 4th, led by Nkrumah Mireku (aka Newport Gardner) and Salmar Nubia (aka Jack Mason) a group of Newport Africans set sail for Africa settling in Liberia. The entire party dies of coastal fever within one year.
1830 Pond Street Free Baptist Church organized in Providence, RI
1831 Snow Town, the Providence neighborhood that replaces Hardscrabble, is the scene to a second major race riot.
1838 First public school for black children is established on Meeting Street in Providence.
1839 The Providence Shelter for Colored Children is organized.
1842 At the November session of the General Assembly of Rhode Island meeting at Newport, the Rhode Island Constitution is revised and ratified giving African American men among others the right to vote.
1846 The summer of 1846, African American businessman, George T. Downing opens a restaurant on Bellevue Avenue in Newport to cater to the emerging summer resort market.
1850 African Church located on Wood Street in Bristol, RI. Building also housed a school for Black children.
1856 Thomas Howland becomes first Black elected to public office in Providence as Warden of the Third Ward.
George T. Downing builds the Sea Girt Hotel along a Bellevue Avenue commercial block that would bear his name.
1859 James Howland of Jamestown dies as the last slave in Rhode Island at the age of 100 years.
1860 Isaac Rice homestead in Newport is used as an Underground Railroad stop.
1861 The American Civil War begins.
1863 The 14th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery (Colored) is organized in Providence, Rhode Island.
Newport and Providence African American leaders begin a movement to fully integrate public schools in Rhode Island.
1865 A group of Newport philanthropists, including George T. Downing underwrite the purchase of land to become Touro Park on Bellevue Avenue.
The 14th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery Regiment is mustered out at Portsmouth Grove.
1866 Dr. Harriet A. Rice was born to George and Lucinda Rice in Newport. She graduated as a top student at Newport’s Rogers High School and in 1882 went on to become the first African American student to graduate from Wellesley College. Soon after she would earn a medical degree at the University of Michigan Medical School. During WWI, she was a physician serving the French Army.
1867 Mary Jackson is born in Providence. She would later work as a statistician at state Labor Department and during WWI, was appointed as a Special Worker for Colored Girls on the YWCA War Work Council.
George T. Downing successfully leads the integration of public schools in Rhode Island.
1869 Rev. Mahlon Van Horne assumes the pastorate of Union Colored Congregational Church on Division Street in Newport.
1870 The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified prohibiting the restriction of voting rights “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
1871 Painter Edward Bannister and his wife Christiana settle in Providence. He is part of founders of Providence Art Club and RISD.
1872 Rev. Van Horne becomes the first African American member of the Newport School Board.
1875 In July 1875 the Congdon Street Baptist Church building is completed in Providence.
St John’s Episcopal Church in Newport is founded at the Point Neighborhood home of African American Peter Quire.
1882 The Daisy Tonsorial Parlor is established at 148 Bellevue Avenue by African American business and civic leader, Fredrick E. Williams.
1883 On October 15th, the Supreme Court declared the Civil Rights Act of 1875 unconstitutional and declared that the Fourteenth Amendment forbids states, but not citizens, from discriminating.
1885 Rev. Van Horne of Newport becomes the first African American member of the General Assembly of Rhode Island.
1885-90 George T. Downing is member of the committee responsible for the Bellevue Avenue extension to Bailey’s Beach in Newport.
1887 Dr. Harriet A. Rice of Newport becomes the first African American to graduate Wellesley College. Soon after, she earned a medical degree at the University of Michigan.
1888 Sisseretta Jones of Providence becomes an international singing star.
1890 Rhode Island enacts a law that establishes the “Home For Aged Colored Women.” Christina Bannister is the leader of the effort and later the home would bear her name as Bannister House in Providence.
1891 The first Black owned and operated newspaper in New England, Torchlight, is established by John Minkins in Providence.
1892 Over 160 documented African American lynching’s in America; the highest annual total in history.
1893 The Breakers Mansion, Newport’s grandest summer cottage is built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II. The Newport Gilded Age has arrived.
J T Allen and his brother David arrive in Newport and soon established the Hygeia Spa at Easton’s Beach and dining facility in the Perry Mansion on Touro Street.
1894 Dr. Marcus Wheatland becomes the first known African-American physician to live and practice in Rhode Island. Dr. Wheatland was nationally recognized as an early radiology specialist.
John Hope graduates from Brown University and later becomes President of Morehouse College.
1896 United States Supreme Court issues Plessy v. Ferguson ruling decided that “separate but equal” facilities satisfy Fourteenth Amendment guarantees, thus giving legal sanction to Jim Crow segregation laws.
President William McKinley appoints Rev. Van Horne of Newport to become U.S. Consul to St. Thomas in the Danish West Indies, serving through the Spanish American War.
1897 Newport born Dr. M. Alonzo Van Horne graduates from Howard Medical School and becomes the first African American dentist in Newport practicing at 47 John Street and later at 22 Broadway.
1898 During the Spanish America War sixteen regiments of black volunteers nationally are recruited and four see combat.
1899 Members of the (African American) Women’s League Newport gather led by Mary Dickerson who owns a dress shop on Bellevue Avenue.
For more Information: www.colonialcemetery.com
- From Enslavement to Entitlement - June 11, 2020
- Rhode Island African Heritage & History Timeline: 17th through 19th Centuries - January 21, 2016
- A Woman of Valor - October 3, 2014
January 30, 2016 at 9:47 pm
Thank You Well done!!!
April 10, 2016 at 3:33 pm
Is he related to the Howland family from the Mayflower?
April 10, 2016 at 3:34 pm
Thomas and James i meant to write.
May 7, 2016 at 4:17 pm
Thanks so much for this timeline! I’m a native Rhode Islander and have recently been working on my genealogy and family tree on ancestry.com. When tracing my Black family through the 18 and 1700s it’s great to have this as a reference for research.
November 3, 2017 at 12:18 am
Have you ever heard about Samuel Abrams who was the first AnfroAmerican pharmacist in RI in the late 1880’s through perhaps the 1920’s or the 1930’s? He was employed by a Jewish family who owned a pharmacy on Meeting Street in Providence. The pharmacy is still in existence.
August 16, 2018 at 1:56 pm
I am a native Newporter and was seeking information regarding any lynching in that city. In my search I came across your timeline. I am so impressed by the time and care that went into your timeline.
Thank you for your effort to make our history known and keep it alive.
September 24, 2018 at 1:11 pm
Thanks for keeping the Newport Black History alive.
Where did the 1860 date come from for the Issac Rice House on the underground railroad at 23 Thomas St that appears in your timeline? I have deeds that go back to 1810 when Issac was living there so it could have been earlier.
Also you might be interested in a letter I have from Frederick Douglass to Issac’s daughter Mary dated 1860. Douglass is said to have stayed at 23 Thomas when in Newport.
Thanks, John Rice (great-great grandson of Issac)
October 22, 2020 at 9:43 pm
Hi John Rice, I am also a Rice relative. The great grandaughter of Olivia John-Rice and Frank horton Rice. My name is Helena Murphy. Lois Rice was my grandmother.
December 4, 2019 at 12:45 pm
I’m not a resident, but I have lived in Newport for over 30 years. Newport has a lot of interesting history. I didn’t know that
slaves in the city of Newport were taught tradesman jobs!! This needs to be taught to children all slaves were not just. Cotton pickers and field hands. Thank you
September 18, 2020 at 6:26 am
No alot of blacks were, doctors, lawyers, dentist. school teachers, inventors and even built the white house but because of their color could not take the credit. alot of blacks were not taught tradesman jobs. they taught the tradesman. rhen their ideas were trade marked as someone elses.
October 13, 2020 at 9:57 pm
Interesting informative history. How can I find out I’d Benjamin F Downing was a Black Carpenter in Newport ? Circa 1860’s. It appears he built and lived in few homes in Newport. One on 39 School Street
December 21, 2022 at 8:18 pm
Thank you for this reply and we at the 1696 group look forward to working with you for future work