PCL is proud to partner with Rhode Island Black Heritage Society to present The Collective Memory of Rhode Island Black History: From Enslavement to Freedom and Beyond. Presented by historian Keith Stokes, the free talks include a rich selection of associated images, objects and historical documents curated by one of America’s oldest African Heritage organizations. The presentations describe how generations of African heritage people have fought for freedom and equal rights in Rhode Island, how their experiences and achievements have impacted and influenced the Ocean State and continue to do so, to this day. The lectures explore different aspects of the theme and take place in February at four different PCL locations:
African Artisans in Colonial Newport
Wednesday, February 5 • 6:00PM-7:30PM
African heritage inhabitants have contributed to the economic, social, educational and religious history of the City by the Sea since it’s very founding. Arriving during the peak of Newport’s thriving 18th century maritime trade economy, Africans merged their traditional tribal skills with craft techniques and became furniture makers, chocolate grinders, coopers, stone masons and cobblers.
Legacies of Slavery & Freedom: A Journey Through the Atlantic World
Thursday, February 6 • 6:00PM-7:30PM
Through family papers, wills, heirlooms, and published historical accounts, this presentation puts a human face on the history of the Transatlantic slave trade by exploring the familial experiences of an enslaved African-Jamaican boy named October (a.k.a. Ottobah, or Robert Barclay) and the historic efforts of one of Great Britain’s leading Quaker families.
History of African American Civil Rights in 20th Century Rhode Island
Monday, February 10 • 6:00PM-7:30PM
Knight Memorial Library
The Civil Rights Movement shifted the hearts, minds, and laws of our state and nation. This presentation documents, interprets, and unveils the stories related to the African American struggle to gain equal rights as citizens in the areas of public accommodations, employment, fair housing and public education. The social issues of the past still remain a challenge for many in the present.
Stories in Stone: America’s African Burying Ground
Tuesday, February 11 • 6:00PM-7:30PM
Mount Pleasant Library
Dating back to as early as 1705, the burial ground in Newport known a God's Little Acre has possibly the oldest and largest surviving collection of burial markers of enslaved and free Africans, the earliest of whom were born in the late 1600s. This presentation will unveil how African heritage people lived, worked, worshipped and eventually died in Colonial Newport and America.
A native of Newport, Keith Stokes is a frequent national, state and local lecturer in community and regional planning, historic preservation and interpretation with an expertise in early African and Jewish American history. He has served on numerous boards, including Chairman of the Touro Synagogue Foundation, Vice President of the Preservation Society for Newport County, advisory board of the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society and board member of the Newport Historical Society. He has been the recipient of the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society’s Fredrick Williamson Award, Daughters of the American Revolution Excellence in Community Service Award and, along with his wife, is the recipient of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities Prize for Creative Achievement in the Humanities.
This series is sponsored by the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society and Creative Survival - a collaboration of the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society and 1696 Heritage Group to present history as the collective memory of African heritage people from enslavement, freedom, and beyond.