Stakeholders/Participants “On the Road to Freedom…”

June 9, 2008 at 1:54 pm (Uncategorized)

On the Road to Freedom: African American Heritage in Rhode Island
Stakeholders/Participants by Category – as of 5/08

State/Municipal/National/Community/Independent Affiliates
Mary-Kim Arnold, ED, Rhode Island Council for the Humanities (RICH)
Chuck Arning, National Park Service
Toby Ayers, RICJ
Mark Brodeur, Economic Development Council – RI Tourism
Rita Cidre, Membership Director, WRNI
Ann Clanton, RICJ
Risa Gilpin, Program Director, RICH
Patti Horton, DARE
SueEllen Kroll, Program Director, RICH
Dennis Langley, ED Urban League, Providence
Kathryn Larsen, RIPBS
Peter Lee, ED, John Hope Settlement, Providence
Amanda Frye Leinhos ED, Martin Luther King Center, Newport
Lynne McCormack, Arts, Culture, Tourism, City of Providence
Cliff Monteiro, NAACP Providence
Joe O’Connor, General Manager, WRNI
Charles Roberts, ED, First Night Newport
Edward Sanderson, ED RI Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission
Keith Stokes, Director, Newport Chamber of Commerce
Katrina White, EDC – RI Tourism

Museums/Libraries/Historical Societies
Linda Avant-Deishinni, Haffenreffer Museum
Christina Bevilacqua, Program/Membership Director, The Providence Athenaeum
Kathy Ellen Bullard, Providence Public Library
Jim Connell, Linden Place
Betty Fitzgerald, RI Collection Librarian, Providence Public Library
Morgan Grefe, Director of Education/Public Programs RI Historical Society
Geralyn Hoffman, Haffenreffer Museum
Kathleen McAreavey, Providence Preservation Society RI
Lisa Miller, Program Director, Providence Public Library
Francine Murphy-Brillon, Slater Mill
Charles Newton, Chair, RIBHS
Carol Palmer, Board, Smith’s Castle
Rick Ring, Special Collections, Providence Public Library
Mary Spotts, Redwood Library
Gwenn Stearn, RI State Archives
Ruth S. Taylor, ED, Newport Historical Society
Edward Widmer, Director, John Carter Brown Library, Brown U.

Religious Organizations
Carl Balark, Pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Providence
Rev. Dr. David Mitchell, senior pastor, Congdon St. Baptist Church
Rev. Jeffrey Williams, Senior Pastor, Cathedral of Life Christian Assembly

Colleges/Universities/Education Associates
Karen Allen Baxter, Rites & Reasons Theatre, Brown U.
Julian Bonder, Architecture, Roger Williams University
Aaron Bruce, Director, Unity Center, Rhode Island College
Jim Campbell, Brown U.
Tehani Collazo, Director of Education Outreach, Brown U.
Susan Graseck, Choices Program, Brown U.
Mollie Hackett, Professional Development, Choices Program, Brown U.
Barry Marshall, Moses Brown
Don Mays, Multicultural Center Roger Williams U.
Jillian McGuire, Outreach, Choices Program, Brown U.
Karen McLaurin-Chesson, Dean, Third World Center, Brown U.
Annie Valk, Associate Director, JNBC Brown U.
Melvin Wade, Multicultural Center URI

Nehassiau de Gannes, playwright, poet, actress
Tony Estrella, Artistic Director, Gamm Theatre
Barnaby Evans, Waterfire
Jon and Ghislaine Mahone, Just a Step Productions – In House Free Style
Bernadette and Ricardo Pitts-Wiley, Director, Mixed Magic Theatre
Michaelle Saintil, Assistant to Artistic Director, Providence Black Rep Co.
Micah Salkind, Director Public Programs, Providence Black Rep Co.
Megan Sandberg-Zakian, Associate Director, Providence Black Rep Co.
Yvonne Seggerman, E.D. Gamm Theatre
Valerie Tutson, ED RI Black Storytellers

Independent Scholars/Interested Individuals
Anne Edmonds Clanton, Covenant with Black America
Regina Clements, President, State of Blacks in RI
Reza Corinne Clifton, Freelance Journalist,
Linda Cline, African American heritage tours
Kathy Devlin, JNBC, Brown U.
Rodrick Echols, Theologian, BU
Stephanie Fortunato, JNBC, Brown U.
Rochelle Lee, Bates & Hall
Joanne Pope Melish, History/Slavery in RI, U. of Kentucky
Harold Metts, RI State Senator
Lyra Monteiro, JNBC, Brown U.
Leah Nahmias, JNBC, Brown U.
Ray Rickman, President, Rickman Group
Ahni Rocheleau, Founder, Spaces for Peace
Seth Rockman, History, Brown U.
Lamin Sarr, President, Sarr Consulting Group
Theresa Guzman Stokes, scholar, Newport
Walter Stone, Attorney, Adler, Pollack, & Sheehan
Joaquina Bela Teixeira, scholar
Jim Vincent, RI Housing
Peter Wells, Publisher, The Providence American

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Bibliography – African American Heritage in Rhode Island

June 3, 2008 at 4:17 pm (African Americans in RI, books, Research) (, , , )

Bibliography of books related to African American Heritage in Rhode Island

Armstead, Myra B. Young. “Lord, Please Don’t Take Me in August”: African Americans in Newport and Saratoga Springs, 1879-1930. Chicago: University of Illinois Press. 1999

Bartlett, Irving H. From Slave to Citizen: the Story of the Negro in Rhode Island. Providence, RI: Urban League of RI. 1954/1972

Battle, Charles A. Negroes on the Island of Rhode Island. 1932.

Bell, Jr., Andrew J. An Assessment of Life in Rhode Island as an African American in the Era from 1918 to 1993. New York: Vantage Press. 1997

Cottrol, Robert J. The Afro-Yankees: Providence’s Black Community in the Antebellum Era. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. 1982

Coughtry, Jay. The Notorious Triangle: R.I. and the African Trade in Slaves. Temple University Press. 1981.

Fitts, Robert K. Inventing New England’s Slave Paradise: Master/Slave Relations in Eighteenth-Century Narragansett, Rhode Island. Ed. Graham Russel Hodges. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc. 1998.

Greene, Lorenzo Johnston. The Negro in Colonial New England. New York: Athenaeum. 1974

Kaplan, Sydney and Emma Nogrady. The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution. Amherst: UMass Press. 1989

Kuns, Richard R., and John Sabino, eds. Underground Railroad in New England. American Revolution Bicentennial Administration, Region 1. 1976.

McBurney, Christian M.  A History of Kingston, RI, 1700-1900, Heart of Rural South County.  Kingston, R.I., Pettaquamscutt Historical Society.  2004 – This book has chapters on slavery; on the South Kingstown town council refusing to free a female slave even though her master wanted her freed; on the Kingston Anti-Slavery Society; on Sarah Harris Fayerweather, an abolitionist who socialized with William Lloyd Garrison; and on the Fayerweather family, who included middle class African American blacksmiths, and whose house still stands.  for more info check

McBurney, Christian M.  Jailed for Preaching: the Autobiography of Cato Pearce, a Freed Slave from Washington County, Rhode Island.  Kingston, RI: Pettaquamscutt Historical Society.  2006.  This is the only RI memoir of a RI slave (William Brown’s and Eleanor Elldridge’s parents were slaves, but not them).  The first part of the book summarizes slavery in souther RI and puts the memoir in context.  The author grew up in the Elisha Potter homestead where one of the main events in the book occurred.  more info –

Melish, Joanne Pope. Disowning Slavery: gradual Emancipation and “Race” in New England, 1780-1860. New York: Cornell University. 1998

Pierson, William D. Black Yankees: the Development of an Afro-American Subculture in Eighteenth-Century New England. (, Amherst, MA, UMASS Press. 1988

Rappleye, Charles. Sons of Providence: the Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution. New York: Simon & Schuster. 2006.

Stewart, Rowena. Creative Survival: the Providence Black Community in the 19th Century. Providence, RI: Rhode Island Black Heritage Society. 1986

Stewart, Rowena. A Heritage Discovered – Blacks in Rhode Island. Providence, RI: Rhode Island Black Heritage Society. 1978

Weeden, William B. Early Rhode Island: A Social History of the People. New York: Grafton Press. 1910.

Youngken, Robert C. African Americans in Newport, 1700-1945. Newport, RI: Newport Historical Society. 1995

Please suggest any additions! Contact Risa –

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March 20, 2008 – First meeting of “stakeholders” for On the Road to Freedom: African American Heritage in RI

June 2, 2008 at 12:28 pm (Uncategorized)

Convening the first meeting – sharing stories –

On Thursday, March 20, 2008, the RI Council for the Humanities gathered a group of over 30 participants to meet for the first time at the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities at Brown University to talk about the new program initiative, “On the Road to Freedom: African American Heritage in Rhode Island”. otrtf-one-page2

Participants included Chuck Arning, Mary-Kim Arnold, Linda Avant-Deishinni, Toby Ayers, Julian Bonder, Mark Brodeur, Jim Campbell, Ann Clanton, Anne Edmonds Clanton, Tehani Collazo, Stephanie Fortunato, Risa Gilpin, Susan Graseck, Morgan Grefe, Geralyn Hoffman, Patty Horton, SueEllen Kroll, Dennis Langley, Don Mays, Lyra Monteiro, Leah Nahmias, Charles Newton, Carol Palmer, Ray Rickman, Ahni Rocheleau, Seth Rockman, Micah Salkind, Gwenn Stearn, Valerie Tutson, Annie Valk, and Katrina White.

As 2008 marks the 200th Anniversary of the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in the U.S., one of the first orders of business for this group will be to commemorate this bicentennial by planning a series of events and exhibitions for Fall 2008. “Freedom Festival” will take place during October 2008, National Arts and Humanities month.

Jim Campbell, Chair of the Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice at Brown University (, welcomed participants and explained how Europe has embraced the commemoration of this 200th anniversary, whereas in America this date has gone virtually unacknowledged, except in Rhode Island, where the struggle to uncover and, in some way come to terms with, this state’s history is unique. He welcomed folks to talk about their particular interest in this effort and to strategize ways to continue the dialogue, work collaboratively and cooperatively to move forward and keep the issues at the forefront of concern for ALL Rhode Islanders.

In March 2006, The Providence Journal featured a comprehensive series of articles about RI and the Slave Trade written by Paul Davis.

Jim Campbell sits with Morgan Grefe, Director of Education and Public Programming, Rhode Island Historical Society. Morgan commented that there has “not been nearly enough work in this area of focus for decades…the story of slavery and the slave trade is a crucial story – it is THE story, it is OUR story.” Morgan would like to see more teacher trainings and content development for teachers AND developing a live connection to schools through the support of folks with expertise used as resources in the classroom. Susan Graseck, Senior Fellow in International Studies at the Choices Program at Brown has already developed some curriculum and professional development material.

Anne Edmonds Clanton, \

Anne Edmonds Clanton, “Covenant With Black America” and Linda Avant-Deishinni, Educational Specialist, Haffenreffer Museum were delighted to attend this meeting.

Linda has been working all her life to preserve African American history and culture in RI – she worked on the amazing “Creative Survival: the Providence Black Community in the 19th Century” exhibition when she was ED at the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society.

Linda is now bringing new African American focus to the Haffenreffer Museum. Anne Edmonds Clanton, founder of the Langston Hughes Center for the Arts (now defunct) received a major grant from the RI Council for the Humanities to bring the tenets of Tavis Smiley’s “Covenant With Black America” to the Rhode Island public in a series of 10 public forums (each representing a covenant), between April 2-November 30, 2008.

Gwenn Stearn, State Archivist, at the Rhode Island State Archives is particularly interested in sharing the wealth of historical records contained in this collection. As Chair of the RI Historic Records Advisory Board decoding how to feed into this program initiative is a critical step towards accessibility. She is also willing to launch several small exhibits on the topic during “Freedom Festival.” Don Mays, an independent director and filmmaker and the Assistant Director of the Intercultural Center at Roger Williams University, has been working on a project on Rhode Island’s first black regiment of the Revolutionary War, which celebrates its 230th anniversary this August.

Dennis Langley, E.D. of the Urban League of RI and Ray Rickman, President, The Rickman Group were also honored to be included on this initiative. Dennis indicated that he was “glad that we’re taking on an issue of importance to the black community and to our country.” Ray hopes we’re serious about this effort and he is particularly interested in continuing the effort to bring hidden stories to the forefront.

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Research begins – Program Directors, Risa Gilpin and SueEllen Kroll visit NYC Jan. 6-8,2008

April 2, 2008 at 11:42 am (Research)

Row Houses built in 1882

SueEllen at Sylvan Terrace – 160th St
Row Houses built 1882

Upon arriving in NYC on Sunday, Jan. 6, Risa and Sue headed straight up to the Sugar Hill section of Harlem – to Sylvan Terrace and Jumel Terrace. We were on a pilgrimage of sorts to this little neighborhood bookshop Jumel Terrace Books (426 W. 160th St “Where the Founding Fathers meet the Founding Brothers”) specializing in the Black Atlantic, Harlem Renaissance, and civil rights literature. Owner Kurt Thometz long-time collector of Africana and African American books and author of Life Turns Man Up and Down, welcomed us to his shop and offered some concrete recommendations for our initiative. Along with his friend and neighbor, George Preston (Beat Poet who opened Artist’s Studio on E. 3rd; taught African art at City College for 32 years; opened the Museum of Art & Origins in his home; author of Sets, Series, Ensembles in African Art), and jazz musician Marjorie Elliot’s (555 Edgecombe Ave. who holds Sunday afternoon jam sessions) are locally known as “the new Sugar Hill gang.”

Kurt Thometz

More about Jumel Terrace Books…

New York Historical Society Gives Us the Dish

The next stop on our party train was the New York Historical Society to meet with Adrienne Kupper, vice president of education, and Elizabeth Grant, associate director of education, to hear more about their experiences working on the major exhibitions Slavery in New York, Legacies- Contemporary Artists Reflect on Slavery 2006, and New York Divided.

The curriculum produced by NYHS is not only impressive but inspirational as a benchmark of excellence. Kupper and Grant offered several pieces of advice for us: 1) consider working with a clinical psychologist to provide a forum to talk about fears, identity politics, adverse reactions, steering conversations, etc; 2) anticipate what some of the toughest questions or reactions will be and plan for strong, consistent responses; 3) plan for the long-term if we want to have an impact; 4) providing teacher trainings and curricula is a sure way to have (measurable) impact; 5) can we create a permanent exhibit?; 6) video booth set up to capture visitors reactions to exhibit was extremely compelling tool; 7) they will share their current evaluation efforts of their curricula in NY public schools with us.
This work could potentially provide a model for our grantees seeking to provide curricular materials for teachers; engage students in after-school projects, etc.
We have a copy of the binder they created for teachers and are willing to share with anyone interested (included are maps, posters, a cd-rom, and innovative techniques for creating portraits of local African American people, using primary source material).

Visit New York Historical Website…

Connecting with Scholar/Historian James Basker

Next on our trip was a stop with James Basker, professor of history at Barnard College, president of the Gilder Lehrman Institute , author of Amazing Grace: An Anthology of Poems About Slavery, 1660-1810, editor of Early American Abolitionists: A Collection of Anti-Slavery Writings 1760-1820.

Much of Jim’s work for Gilder-Lehrman has been focused on education- annual teacher seminars; traveling exhibits; and classroom resources such as calendars, posters – all of which he has offered to make available for RICH should we make reach into the schools a priority. In addition, Jim had several great suggestions for keynotes/panelists for our OTRTF conference.

The Institute launched the African American National Biography project of Henry Louis Gates and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham,

Read Basker Article on Poets Against Slavery in the 1600’s and 1700’s,8599,423930,00.html

Up Next: Angela Keiser at Gilder-Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition, Yale University!

Good thing that Sue and Risa didn’t sleep in because the next stop on our whirlwind tour proved to be the most fruitful. In her capacity as Special Projects Coordinator, Angela Keiser spearheads planning and growth for the GLC’s major education outreach program – the UNESCO Transatlantic Slave Trade Education Project. As the TST Project New England Regional Coordinator, Angela works directly with education policy makers, university leaders, school system administrators, middle and upper grade teachers to elevate the quality of instruction in the origins, evolution and legacy of the transatlantic slave trade and to promote intercultural student dialogue around this topic.
Angela offered several resources and key pieces of advice in terms of planning our initiative: 1) Timing for this project is excellent in terms of receptivity. 2) Build a strong alliance with State Department of Education. 3) Need for Digital Humanities Resource Center for connecting resources/scholarship. 4) Involve non-academic institutions e.g., Projo to help spread the word (see Hartford Courant’s Coverage). 5) Move beyond the “blaming” issue. It’s crucial to have a plan to move conversations to healing and resolution. 6) Work with Katrina Browne as she is providing a white audience with a vocabulary for talking about these tough issues. 7) Understand that there is a psychological aspect to addressing this issue (not just a humanities one).

Also check out these websites:
Citizens All: African Americans in Connecticut, 1700-1850 website link here
Beyond Complicity: Connecticut’s Hidden History,0,407447.htmlstory?coll=hc-headlines-custom-specials

Last Stop: The Road to Civil War

We concluded our trip with a lunch meeting at Yale’s Lawn Club with film producer H. Gilles Carter to discuss his upcoming PBS project – a 3 part series examining the period leading up to the Civil War.
Gilles is interested in applying for a grant, and among the RI connections to his research, is the story of the abolitionists known as the Grimke Sisters who were active at the Beneficent Congregational Church.
Gilles is working with Richard Wormser on this production who directed the PBS series The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow. They intend to model their current project off of this one.

Visit Rise and Fall of Jim Crow Resource Website…

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Rhode Island Council for the Humanities – “On the Road to Freedom”

March 27, 2008 at 7:56 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )



PROJECT VISION: Reintegrating Our Histories

The contributions of African Americans to the life and culture of Rhode Island are rich and varied and merit greater recognition, representation and dissemination. The story of Blacks in Rhode Island is OUR story, that is, the story of all Rhode Islanders. The continuum On the Road to Freedom will explore our collective memories to highlight the many accomplishments and contributions made by individuals and organizations of African American descent. These stories include the history of the slave trade and emancipation; pacifism and military heroism; pioneering artists and the creation of nationally recognized cultural and educational institutions; the realization of the American Dream as well as the legacy of racism and oppression.


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