In 1643/1644, the towns were combined under their current name into a single governmental entity by letters patent from the English Parliament. In the decade since the Slavery & Justice report was published, a flurry of initiatives and projects have reclaimed lost voices, uncovered how prominent families obtained their wealth, commemorated displaced communities of color, and developed programs about slavery and its legacies. During winter they had very harsh weather and cold summers ranging from 70 to the mid 70’s. 35 There are records of Narragansett slaves in Providence, Warwick, and “most notably, in South Kingstown, where a census in 1730 showed the community to hold 223 Narragansett slaves. While, this diet kept the slaves fed well, it denied them of a variety of nutrients. The regular food and diet of slaves varied between the different plantations, but there were several main similarities throughout the timeframe of slavery in the United States. Your email address will not be published. Between 1698 and 1865, the 167 years the family was in the slave business, close to four thousand black people were born into slavery to the Balls or bought by them. Why the decrease? }, Providence, Rhode Island News, Events, Music, Shows, Film, Art. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order Monday removing the phrase "Providence Plantations" from her administration’s communications. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. > Slavery and the Slave Trade in Rhode Island. The voyage was, even in a contemporary context, particularly disastrous. In other words, Rhode Island itself has as much culpability in the history of slavery as Providence Plantations. Those calls have intensified recently as … What I’m trying to do, you see, in a country that wants to move on, I’m trying to understand as a descendant of slaves how to feel good about moving on. Launched by the Brown brothers (Nicholas, John, Joseph, and Moses) the brig the Sally was the first slave ship to depart directly from Providence. When the parliamentary charter was finally replaced in 1663 by a royal charter, it recognized “our Island called Rhode Island and the rest of the Colonie of Providence Plantations.”. Arnold even attempted to take control of Providence by altering Williams' original land deed. By 1784, Rhode Island enacted a law that provided for the gradual emancipation of slaves, so children born to slaves would no longer be property of their masters but instead would be temporary “apprentices,” girls becoming free at 18 and boys at 21. Source for information on Providence Plantations, Rhode Island … Although there were about 4,400 blacks in Rhode Island in 1790, by 1800 the number of slaves was 384 and by 1840 only 5. Examining one particular ship, the Sally, provided important insight into how the institution of slavery operated within the colonial community of Providence. There was slavery in the colony by 1652: we know this with certainty because Rhode Island needed to outlaw it on May 18 of that year, limiting indentured servitude to a term of 10 years (or age 24 if started before age 14); the evidence is that this legal prohibition was widely ignored and never enforced, and regardless was superceded by a 1703 law that officially authorized slavery. The National Park Service recently awarded a grant to the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission (RIHPHC) and the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society (RIBHS) to “assist in efforts to broaden the inclusion of underrepresented communities in statewide inventories of historic properties and the National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks.” In addition to broadening the inclusion of communities left out of earlier inventories, many African American and Diasporic communities were dispersed particularly in the 1950s and 1960s due to the University’s expanding footprint and other urban renewal projects. Several considerations probably motivated this action, including a desire to use proceeds from sales to compensate those, including Williams, who suffered property losses incurred in the destruction of the city, but also to avoid setting the captives free where they could, the settlers feared, resume the war. Maybe not. As institutions across the nation are being forced to confront their history and think critically about diversity and inclusion today, we can look to the Slavery & Justice report as an important tool for learning more about our past so we can better understand our present, and work for a more humane future. ” (Geake, The Narragansett). After the failed voyage of the Sally, John Brown would continue to sponsor other slaving voyages, even after Rhode Island outlawed the transatlantic slave trade. The founder of Providence, Roger Williams, had a background in the law courts of England, having clerked for the most famous lawyer and judge of the day, Edward Coke, and their relationship took on the character almost of father and son, Coke thinking so highly of Williams’ ability that he paid for his formal education. At the time of the formation of the Slavery & Justice Committee, then President Simmons told the New York Times: How does one repair a kind of social breach in human rights so that people are not just coming back to it periodically and demanding apologies…. As England began to dominate commercial seafaring, in 1622 the king created what is commonly known as the “Board of Trade,” but whose official name remains to this day, almost 400 years later, “The Lords of the Committee of the Privy Council appointed for the consideration of all matters relating to Trade and Foreign Plantations.” Put more simply, “plantation” was the business buzzword of the early 1600s culture of economic imperialism in which Coke and Williams were enmeshed. We know a great deal about the Browns’ connection to the slave trade, due to the work of the 2003 Slavery & Justice Committee, formed by then President Ruth J. Simmons. The percentage black population declined to 6-7% between 1774 and 1790. Housed in the historic Cathedral of St. John, its origins can be directly linked to the DeWolf family whose wealth was based largely in the slave trade. The Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project, a national organization that commemorates Middle Passage arrival sites through educational plaques and community gatherings, recently formed a Rhode Island Chapter with the support of civic and nonprofit leaders, scholars, educators, and community members. During the 1600s, most slavery in New England, including Rhode Island, was of Native American Indians, reaching a climax after King Philip’s War in 1675-1676, which historians today view as a civil war involving complicated internecine competition among various English settlers and indigenous tribes over resources such as land. Required fields are marked *. That … It was in Rhode Island, where I lived after 1964, that I first stumbled across an obscure reference to local slavery, but almost no one I asked knew anything about it. The British colonists looked back helplessly with increasing alarm as the home country descended into civil war in the 1640s and the interregnum of the 1650s, and the neighboring settlements in Massachusetts and Connecticut saw the Rhode Island settlers as anarchist heretics and the native tribes as recalcitrant heathen savages. In the definitive classic on the subject, The Negro in Colonial New England, Lorenzo Greene in 1942 gave specific numbers. Coke’s legal radicalism was echoed by Williams who broke with ancient traditions of English practice in founding Providence: he insisted that land could not be acquired by force through “right of discovery” and instead the Native American Indians should be paid for it, he insisted that the governor and officers of the colony should be chosen by popular vote at annual elections rather than being appointed from London, and — most famously — he insisted that individuals would have full liberty of religious conscience and should be subject only to the civil law. The planter class made fortunes on the lucrative trade rooted in slavery, especially cheese exports. On June 22, Gov. × As I sit in my office at the Center for the Study of Slavery & Justice at Brown University, the history and legacy of the Atlantic slave trade surrounds me. Gina Raimondo announced that she would, by executive order, shorten the name to “State of Rhode Island” on documents and displays wherever she had the authority to do it, ironically speaking at a podium emblazoned with the state seal still retaining “Providence Plantations.” (Two days later, the seal was temporarily patched up with masking tape.) Rhode Island Gov. These had proven to be successful for the Spanish and Portuguese both in the Canary Islands and then in the Americas. The Providence Plantations were the first white settlements in Rhode Island. Williams bought a large tract of land from the Narragansett Indians, and in 1638 joined with twelve other settlers in forming a land company. The work of the Slavery & Justice report helped to encourage conversations about a painful past, and opened the door for many of the initiatives happening locally today. These mills helped to spur the Industrial Revolution in Rhode Island, and many would manufacture “Negro Cloth” a rough material sold to plantation owners to clothe their slaves. Beyond some threshold that has been crossed by both the swastika and the word “plantation,” the symbolism becomes irredeemably infected with evil, regardless of the true history, but it is worth understanding that history. The German Coast, where Whitney Plantation is located, was home to 2,797 enslaved workers. In the years after the Revolution, Rhode Island merchants controlled between 60 and 90 percent of the American trade in African slaves. While his brother Moses would become a public activist against the trade, he invested in the creation of local textile mills, which relied on slave picked cotton. (This was his PhD dissertation at Columbia, and it was reprinted in 1968 and 2016.) It was an English colony from 1636 until 1707, and then a colony of Great Britain until the American Revolution in 1776, when it became the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Though only a few Narragansett planters were large slave owners, historian Christy Clark-Pujara states that ultimately, “thousands of enslaved men, women, and children” in this area produced foodstuffs and raised livestock for trade. Here's the thing: the word plantation doesn't necessarily have anything to do with slavery. Then there’s the matter of who controls Rhode Island’s history. The Center is open weekdays for visitors from 9-4:45. There was a large market for sugar in Britain and Europe so the crop was a sound investment. In time, they were largely forgotten. As many social media users and … In time, they were largely forgotten. Rhode Island has an ugly and shameful history with slavery, but none of that has to do with “plantations” in its official name. The plantations of Providence Plantations were built by settlers on stolen Indigenous land with the wealth made from profits of sales of enslaved Indigenous people. In 1795, there were 19,926 enslaved Africans and 16,304 free people of color in Louisiana. Whether or not they change the name from Rhode Island and Providence Plantations to Rhode Island will be up to the citizens of the state to decide. Newport, the colony's leading slave port, took an estimated 59,070 slaves to America before the Revolution. Finally, with its 1843 constitution following the Dorr Rebellion, the state adopted abolition with a single sentence: “Slavery shall not be permitted in this state.”. This network of economic participation enmeshed many people across the state including farmers, bakers, blacksmiths, carpenters, distillery workers, and coopers among many others as they prepared and equipped ships for the Middle Passage. But Coke, until he fell out of royal favor and spent the rest of his life in parliamentary opposition, was the ultimate establishment lawyer, serving as the king’s prosecutor against both Walter Raleigh and Guy Fawkes. All slaves born before 1784 would remain slaves for life. Slaves came from Africa. There have been efforts to drop the "Providence Plantations" before by those who say it evokes the legacy of slavery. Slavery and the University: Reclaiming a Difficult History in Providence, Center for the Study of Slavery & Justice, Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project, Five Things I Wish I had Known at My First OAH, The Histories of Epidemics in the United States, Televising the Revolution: Turn’s Peggy Shippen Arnold, The Troubled History of American Education after the Brown Decision, Why the Portuguese Restoration of 1640 Matters to the History of American Slavery, The 1952 Olympic Games, the US, and the USSR, Organizing the Prisons in the 1960s and 1970s: Part One, Building Movements, The (African) American Missionary Movement in Africa in the Early Twentieth Century, Sleeping Soldiers and the War for the Mind. The slave trade irritated the Quakers, who were the political force of our colony for almost 100 years prior to the War of Independence, who strongly believed that slavery was inhumane. As I noted elsewhere, the Boy Scouts started using the swastika on badges and medals in 1911, but stopped in 1934 shortly after the Nazis got into power in Germany. I’ve come to see it like the swastika: no matter how true it is that the symbol is 2,500 years old and the word “swastika” literally means in Sanskrit “there is well-being,” its adoption in 1920 by Adolf Hitler makes it impossible today to see a swastika without one’s first thought being of Nazism. Using the Plantation model st… The University’s connection to the slave trade is not exclusive to the Sally. Does it evoke, both through modern connotations of the word plantation and historical … The traditional New England custom of “warning out” anyone poor and indigent so they did not become a public charge was practiced by many towns: in 1750, only 5% of those “warned out” were black, but this rose to 22% by 1790 and 50% by 1800; those exiled from towns were not strangers, as 37% had lived there for at least five years and 26% for at least 10 years. The first of Brown’s buildings, University Hall (1770), which now houses the upper administrative offices, was built with enslaved labor donated by patrons of the University. Meanwhile, the settlers at Pawtuxet were also not getting along well with the other settlements. Members of the historical society did, but they assured me that slavery in Rhode Island had been brief and benign, involving only the best families, who behaved with genteel kindness. I covered her presentation and posted a full video recording for Motif (facebook.com/watch/live/?v=721721038645901). As British colonisation spread into the West Indies, the Plantation model was used to harvest Sugar cheaply. Fastidious record keepers, the Brown brothers amassed a large archive of receipts, ledgers, and letters, which can be found today at The John Carter Brown Library at Brown University. They pointed me in the direction of several antiquarian histories, which said about the same thing. For 50 years, Newport’s merchants loaded the surplus farm products onto ships bound for slave plantations in the West Indies where they were traded mostly for sugar and molasses. Today, almost two and half centuries after its construction, a monument to the history of slavery sits in the shadow of University Hall its top, a broken chain, reminding us that this history and reconciliation are not complete. She also supported asking voters to formally change the name by constitutional amendment at the November election, although that was overwhelmingly rejected in 2010. Records show many of the founders and early trustees of Brown acquired their wealth through links to the trade in human lives. Early University records reveal that many contributors to the endowment had also earned their money through the slave trade. A large slave-holding estate in rural southern Rhode Island might have 40 slaves, and there were only a handful of such estates; in the Southern states, a single estate could have hundreds of slaves. “The unusually large number of Negroes in Rhode Island late in the eighteenth century is evidence of the colony’s enormous commercial activities which produced a relatively large slave-holding aristocracy,” Greene wrote. In the 1790 federal census, there were still more than 260 slaves in Newport. The Center includes a gallery, a Rising to Freedom glass wall art piece, and an educational garden. British coloniesin the West Indies followed the existing pattern of Slave Plantations. As Raimondo stated in her Executive Order 20-48, “many of the State’s residents find it painful that a word so closely associated with slavery should appear in the official name of the State.” The current objection to the word “plantation” is based upon visceral upset, not history. 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