This year Frederick Douglass’ speech has been read by his descendants and been posted online by NPR. You can reach it by clicking here,
Last evening the Warren Town Council voted 4 to 0, Councilman Hanley was absent, to raise the Black Lives Matter flag. It is reported today in the Warren Times Gazette https://www.eastbayri.com/stories/warren-will-fly-black-lives-matter-flag-in-front-of-town-hall,82445
If you are not able to access the article, you can watch the meeting on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efn-HULih9k Here’s a brief summary: two people sent written comments against raising the BLM flag, one because it was those Democrats who were funding this nationally so it was political and a second who interestingly tied it to SDS of the 60s and well he was against it. I (Pat Mues, co-founder Warren Middle Passage Project) submitted a letter — signed by a dozen people — reminding the Council of our slave trading past and asked for the passage of the resolution “in the memory of those who died or were enslaved because of the actions of Warren residents, as well as the many people enslaved within Warren; we know thirty of them by name:
PRIVATE HAMPTON BARTON
PRIVATE PRINCE CHILD
PRIVATE CAESAR COLE
PRIVATE BRISTOL LUTHER
CAESAR LYNDON JR
PRIVATE WARREN MASON
PRIVATE BRISTOL MILLER
Councilman DePasquale spoke at length about our early history including our murder and enslavement of the Native Americans whose land we stole. He has spent a good deal of time studying our history and his remarks were excellent.
It has been months since our last posting, but we have been busy. Our main efforts have been toward a better understanding of the role enslaved African American men of Warren played in the Revolutionary War. The records of the War are fractured and incomplete — a fire in 1800 destroyed the majority of records at the War Department in DC, with more destroyed when the British invaded the capitol during War of 1812 — but most were reconstituted and our State Archives have many of their own. We also have spent time with websites and books including Bob Geake’s From Slaves to Soldiers, Judith Van Buskirk’s Standing in Their Own Light and the DAR’s downloadable 900 pages on Native and African Americans who served in the Revolutionary War entitled Forgotten Patriots(2008) with Supplement (2012).
Rhode Island didn’t allow black men to join the military until February 14, 1778 (and that only lasted for four months) so it was baffling to see three enslaved Warren men –Hampton Barton, Caesar Cole and Prince Child — show up enlisted in the Spring of 1777. But the thing is they went into the Continental Army which was desperate for men (enlistment was for a minimum of 3 years vs a few months in the local militias) and so these three African Americans were “enlisted”, likely by their owners, for the 44 pound bounty being offered. Did these men have a choice? Likely not, but even the Continental Army might have seemed a better option if it meant they were free men.
More to come…
We will be marking the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans being brought to Point Comfort Virginia in 1619. Jeff Davies will be ringing the Baptist Church Bell for 4 minutes, 1 minute for each one hundred years. Pat Mues and Sarah Weed along with Pastor Esther Irish, will discuss the slave trade, enslavement and its legacy.
The National Park Service at Fort Monroe (once Point Comfort) press release states:
The landing of the first enslaved Africans was one of the most significant events in our country’s history, but is still widely unknown. Originally, the “20 and odd” enslaved Africans onboard the White Lion were never to be brought to the English colonies but rather stay in the Caribbean and South America in the Spanish colonies where slavery was already established. At the time, slavery did not exist in the English Colonies.
The White Lion was in desperate need of rations before making the long journey back to Europe. They landed at Point Comfort seeking to trade the “20 and odd” Africans for provisions. The enslaved persons were skilled farmers, herders, blacksmiths and artisans. Along with their skills, they brought their own culture, language and beliefs that shaped innovations in food production, crop cultivation, music and dance. Despite all the skills and innovations they brought to this new land they would undergo generations of hardship and turmoil. Those first “20 and odd” Africans who landed at Point Comfort marked the beginning of 246 years of slavery in the United States.
Join us at 2:30 to learn more about 1619 and the role of Rhode Island and Warren in the slave trade, who the African Americans enslaved in Warren were, and the part those men, women and children played in the founding of our country.
We all learned that the Statue of Liberty was given to us by France to stand in the harbor of New York City as a beacon of hope to immigrants coming to Ellis Island, right? Well, the words we all can quote by heart, Emma Lazarus’s poem which ends: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/ The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door! was not placed at the base of the Statue until 1903, nearly 20 years after the statue’s dedication in 1886.
The Statue of Liberty was the idea of Eduardo de Laboulaye, a French political thinker and staunch abolitionist. And it was meant to celebrate the end of slavery and the victory of the North in the Civil War. Broken shackles at her foot symbolize that fact.
You can find more on the subject at the National Park Service site you can reach here.
Thursday, June 20th, we dedicated a marker that tells the history of Warren’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade and the people who were enslaved in Warren. I will be posting about those people throughout the month, but wanted to begin with the marker. It has been placed in a prominent location on Water Street facing the sidewalk at the entrance to the Town Wharf. History tells us the wharf that was here in the 18th century, Collins Wharf, was the launching point for Warren’s first transatlantic slave voyage to Africa on September 24, 1789, two years after such voyages were declared illegal by the Rhode Island General Assembly.
In February of 2016, Christy Clark-Pujara — author of Dark Work: The Business of Slavery in Rhode Island — gave a talk at the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University. It can be seen in full on Youtube here. Dr. Clark-Pujara is a great speaker and she gives us insights into what it must have been like to be enslaved that we incorporate in our own presentations. I encourage everyone to take the time to watch this lecture when you can sit back and take it in.
But since I know most folks will not be able to watch and listen to 72 minutes, let me suggest that you go to the last ten, a Q & A session where Christy talks about the importance of plaques, memorials and markers in public places. Her discussion on that issue is worth at least ten minutes of your time.
The work of the Warren Middle Passage Project, to date, has been focused on providing all the information we can on the involvement of the Town and its residents in the slave trade as well as identifying those African Americans who lived in Warren in the 18th and early 19th century. (Our future efforts will take us forward from that period to identify people of color who are their descendants.)
Finding people who have been forgotten or erased is crucial to our mission. Here are names of those men, women and children we have identified so far. Those with [brackets] arround their last name show the name of their owner, which they may or may not have taken.Those in bold served in the Revolutionary War. Those in italics were owned by visitors to Warren who moved on after a few years.
GREAT CAESAR LYNDON
LITTLE CAESAR LYNDON
For some of these people, we know they retained the name they were given during enslavement because we follow their later history. For others, who appear to us in Warren Town Council records only on the day of their emancipation, we do not know what name they chose to use once free. With women, we also must face the fact that their last names often disappear once married. But we have to work with what we have while remembering these men and women might well have wanted to choose their names for themselves.
Sorry for the last minute announcement, but we were not certain how much space was available at this presentation of “Finding Phebe: Uncovering the History of Enslavement in Warren, RI”. We can tell you it is worth coming just for the view, because we are presenting at the gorgeous Sailing and Education Center at Roger Williams. Here is a link to an older map of the RWU campus; the Center is #29. The presentation begins at six and it is free to all.
W. E. B. Du Bois, while at Harvard University, wrote his doctoral dissertation: The Suppression of the African Slave-trade to the United States of America 1638-1870. I had not known about this monograph until I picked up a compendium of his work at the George Hail Library here in Warren. I also discovered the webdubois.org website site that gives links to the various editions of the work online as well as much of what has been written about it since its publication in 1896. It is a masterful work, using facts to show how that “suppression” was, until the end, nonexistent. In the final chapter, he observes the catastrophic result of the failure of the men at the Constitutional Convention to address slavery at the end of the Revolutionary War: …there was never a time in the history of America when the system [of slavery] had a slighter economic, political, and moral justification than in 1787; and yet with this real, existent, growing evil before their eyes, a bargain largely of dollars and cents was allowed to open the highway that led straight to the Civil War.
Along with the nearly 200-page text of this piece, Dr. Du Bois also offers an impressive
list of appendices. Appendix C includes a list of American vessels carrying Africans into slavery after the trade was “outlawed” in 1808; it goes on for many pages.
You can also see much more of Du Bois’ writings and correspondence via Credo at UMass Amherst. Born in Massachusetts in 1868 (just 3 years after the ratification of the 13th Amendment), he moved to Ghana late in life and died there at the age of 95, on the eve of the historic March on Washington in 1963.
Last night Sarah and I presented “Finding Phebe” to an audience of about sixty people at East Providence Library. They were a great group who expressed their emotions loud enough for us to hear them and that always encourages us.
When we go outside of Warren, we try and find some information on enslavement in the town where we are presenting since there is no place in Rhode Island where people weren’t enslaved. East Providence was founded after the end of slavery, so we went to the East Providence Historical Society site and found that the group’s headquarters were in the John Hunt House circa 1750 — East Providence was a part of Rehoboth MA at the time — so we started there; we didn’t need to go any further. When I put that name and date into ancestry.com, it presented the Will and Inventory for Mr. Hunt dated 1751. After reading the first two pages of his will, I found an all too common bequest — a human being.Primus could well have been an adult, the use of the derogatory term “boy” tells us nothing about his age. Did John Hunt own any other people? None were mentioned in the will so we looked at the inventory of property taken after his death, and we found the answer.
Listed among the livestock were “a Negro woman and her child.” Although it may be shocking to think about, it was not unusual for people to own slaves but not mention them in their wills at all, only to find them turning up in lists similar to Hunt’s inventory.
And so with the information from those probate records, coupled with the information available on the house owned by John Hunt, we can say that three enslaved people lived in John Hunt’s house in what was then Rehoboth, now East Providence. For more house details, click here.
The next step toward finding Primus and the woman and child enslaved in the Hunt house would be to look at more wills, go through Rehoboth town council records for possible emancipations or other actions involving the enslaved, and look at any family papers from that period as well as the earliest census for Massachusetts, 1790. This work can be tedious and frustrating but it is truly rewarding to find those who have been forgotten. There are folks thoughout the state happy to guide such searches. Let us know if you would like to look for those within your home town.
We had a great turnout last night for “Finding Phebe” with an audience that showed their emotions throughout the presentation. They also asked great questions and offered important information. Jeff Howe, who has done extensive research on African Americans and Native Americans in Rhode Island, was in the audience and it was nice to hear his comments. We also had discussions about identifying the African nations where specific people came from — in Warren we know only one for sure right now . There was also a discussion about whether our black soldiers were in the Rhode Island Regiment. We know two men died before the regiment was formed, another was definitely in it and will find the answer for the other three before our next presentation.
We always have posters up at the presentations giving people some basic information on the Rhode Island slave trade, the people who profited from it in Warren, and the laws affecting people of color. Some people requested copies of the information. It needs to be photographed and uploaded, so please come back tomorrow to see it. And thank you all for coming to “Finding Phebe.”
At East Providence Library on Monday, February 26th at 7 pm, Sarah Weed and Pat Mues from the Warren Middle Passage Project will be making a presentation and having a discussion. Please come if you would like to learn more about the enslaved of Warren in the 18th and early 19th century.
This exhibit focuses on Rhode Island’s deep ties to slavery, from the transatlantic slave trade to the cotton that gave birth to the textile industry. Giving a face to the labor underlying the business of slavery, it includes images from historical archives that highlight the role the slave trade, enslaved labor and products of slavery played in Rhode Island’s economic boom in the 19th century. Historian Peter Fay has done an incredible amount of research for this impressive presentation.
The display features the work of Rhode Island artist Deborah Baronas, whose drawings and textile scrims allow the viewer to face these workers and sense their ghosts in our midst. Also making their labor tangible will be mature cotton plants the audience can touch. The exhibition will also include a loom from Slater Mill.
For specific time and place, click here.
Warren Middle Passage Project Resource List
Arnold, James N., Vital Record of RI, Volume 6, Narragansett Historical Publishing Company, 1891-1912
Baker, Virginia, History of Warren in the War of the Revolution, Virginia Baker, 1901
Baptist, Edward E., The Half has never been told: Slavery and the making of American capitalism, Basic Books, 2014
Bartlett, I. H., From slave to citizen: The story of the Negro in RI, Urban League of Greater Rhode Island, 1954
Bartlett, John R. (ed.), Records of the Colony of RI and Providence Plantations in New England, 1678 to 1706, Volume III, Knowles and Anthony, 1858
Berlin, Ira, and Hoffman, Ronald, Slavery and freedom in the age of the American Revolution, University of Illinois, 1986
Bicknell, Thomas W., History and Genealogy of the Bicknell Family, and some collected…, Bicknell, 1913
Bicknell, Thomas W., A History of the Town of Barrington, RI, Snow and Farnham, 1898
Clark-Pujara, Christy, Dark work: The business of Slavery in RI, New York University Press, 2016
Coleman, Peter J., The Transformation of RI, 1790-1860, Brown University Press, 1963
Cottrol, Robert J., The Afro-Yankees: Providence’s Black community in the Antebellum Era, Greenwood Press, 1982
Coughtry, Jay, The Notorious triangle: RI and the African slave trade, 1700-1807, Temple University Press, 1981
Geake, Robert A., and Spears, Loren, From slaves to soldiers: The First RI Regiment in the American Revolution, Westholm Publishing, 2016
Grundset, Eric G., Forgotten patriots: African-American and American Indian patriots in the Revolutionary War…, National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 2008
Herndon, Virginia W., Unwelcome Americans: Living on the margin in Early New England, Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2001
Horton, James O., and Horton, Lois E, Slavery and public history: The Tough stuff of American memory, University of North Carolina Press, 2009
Johnston, William D., Slavery in RI, 1775-1776, Papers from the Historical Seminary of Brown University, 1894
Jones, Daniel P., The economic and social transformation of Rural RI, 1780-1850, Northeastern University Press, 1992
Mason, Alverdo H., Genealogy of the Sampson Mason Family, A. H. Mason, 1903
Melish, Joanne Pope, Disowning Slavery: Gradual emancipation and ‘Race’ in New England, 1780-1860, Cornell Univ., 2000
O’Toole, Marjory Gomez, If Jane should want to be sold: Stories of enslavement, indenture, and freedom in Little Compton, RI, Little Compton Historical Society, 2016
Pierson, William D., Black Yankees: The development of an Afro-American subculture in 18th Century New England, University of Massachusetts Press, 1988
Popek, Daniel M., “They Fought Bravely, But Were Unfortunate”…..The Story of Rhode Island’s Black Regiment…, Anchor House, 2015
Register of Seaman’s Protection Certificates from the Providence, RI Customs Districts, 1796-1870
RI Black Heritage Society, Creative survival: The Providence Black community in the Nineteenth Century, RI Black Heritage Society, 1995
RI Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission, Warren, RI, Statewide Preservation Report B-W-1, RI Historic Preservation Commission, 1975
Rider, Sidney, S., An Historical Inquiry concerning the attempt to raise a Regiment of slaves by RI During the War of Revolution, S. S. Rider, 1880
Roediger, D. and Blatt, M. H. (eds.), The Meaning of slavery in the North, Garland Publishing, 1999
SenGupta, Gunja, From Slavery to poverty, New York University Press, 2009
Slavery and Justice: Report of the Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice, Brown University, 2007
Sweet, John W., Bodies politic: Negotiating race in the American North, 1730-1830, University of Penn. Press,
2003 Warren 250th Anniversary Committee, Warren 250th Anniversary book, Town of Warren, 1998
Wright, Otis, History of Swansea, Massachusetts, 1667-1917, Published by the Town, 1917
Youngken, Richard C., African Americans in Newport,: An Introduction to the heritage of African Americans in Newport, RI, 1770-1945, RI Historic Preservation and Heritage Commission and RI Black Heritage Society, 1995
Aaron Lopez Papers and Aaron Lopez Account Book, Newport Historical Society
Births, Marriages, and Deaths, Town of Warren, 1774-1844
Newport Historical Society
Rhode Island Judicial Archives
Rhode Island State Archives
Warren Town Records Collection, 1746-1811, Volume 1, Parts 1 & 2,
Wills and Inventories of the Town of Warren, Volume 1, 1746-1789, Volume 2, 1789-1802, Volume 3, 1810-1819
Clark-Pujara, Christy, Slavery, emancipation, and Black freedom in RI, 1652-1842, Thesis, University of Iowa,
2009 Glickman, Jessica, A War at the heart of Man: The Structure And construction of ships bound for Africa, Thesis, University of RI, 2015
Morrill, Rebecca, Religion and social influences upon the Anti-Slavery Movement in RI, 1773-1799, Thesis, Brown University, 1989
Internet Archives archive.org MA,
Wills and Probate Records, 1635-1991 ancestry.com
RI Historic Cemetery Commission Database rihistoriccemeteries.org
RI Vital Extracts, 1636-1899 ancestry.com
RI, Wills and Probate Records, 1582-1932 ancestry.com
Slavery in the North http://www.slavenorth.com
US Census Bureau us census.gov
US Revolutionary War Rolls ancestry.com
Voyages: The Transatlantic Slave Trade Database slavevoyages.org
Wills and Inventories, Warren, RI
Visible Cloth, Invisible Bodies: Rhode Island Textiles and Southern Slavery in the 19th Century
Thursday, Feb 8, 2018 6:30-8 p.m.
Expert Panel Discussion:
Dr. Gregory O’Malley, Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Cruz
Dr. Seth Rockman. Associate Professor of history at Brown University
Christine Mitchell, Historical Interpreter, Old Slave Mart Museum, Charleston, S.C.
Moderator: Valerie Tutson, Rhode Island Black Storytellers
Providence Campus of University of Rhode Island
80 Washington Street
Providence, RI 02903
On January 30th, more than a dozen community leaders came to a Warren Middle Passage Project meeting to discuss how we move forward in our efforts to memorialize those who died or were enslaved and to recognize the pivotal role African Americans played in the building of America.
After Sarah Weed and Pat Mues gave a brief overview of Warren’s role in the slave trade and the story of those enslaved within the town, folks broke up into small groups to brainstorm on how to make sure we get a good turnout for our community meeting later this year.
The consensus was educate, educate, educate people about our history. Some of the people present had grown up and gone to school here and had never heard a word about slavery and Warren. Some knew about Bristol, Newport and Providence but never thought Warren was connected. And so, we will continue to present “Finding Phebe” whenever we can and hope that community groups will get in touch so we can find new venues within Warren.
Last night Sarah and I presented “Finding Phebe” at Linden Place in Bristol. We had a great group of about sixty people including students from the Roger William School of Law. Those men and women asked questions and joined the discussion, giving us all a chance to talk about why this subject echoes through to today.
For those of you who would like to know more about the work being done by students and scholars, you might want to check out the website of Brown University’s Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice which states “Recognizing that racial and chattel slavery were central to the historical formation of the Americas and the modern world, the CSSJ creates a space for the interdisciplinary study of the historical forms of slavery while also examining how these legacies shape our contemporary world.”
Located on the campus of Brown University, the Center always has an interesting, small exhibition and hosts events throughout the year. They have a great video archive of past presentations and conferences, including a lecture by Christy Clark-Pujara author of Dark Work. In her hour long talk she lays out how the business of slavery permeated Rhode Island. Listening to her is the easiest way to begin to understand that part of our state’s history; her book has become a ready reference for our work.
On Wednesday, January 24th at 7 pm, Sarah Weed and Pat Mues will be presenting “Finding Phebe: Uncovering the History of Enslavement in Warren, RI” at Linden Place in Bristol. Please click here for details, reservations are required.
As you may or may not know, Linden Place was once home to the DeWolfs who made their fortune forcing African men, women and children into slavery, most often on their sugar plantations in Cuba. This presentation will be focused on the enslaved in Warren in the 18th century, though we are including some information on the situation in Bristol at the time as well as the plight of a young woman listed in a will in the year 1755.
The schooner Abigail would become Warren’s first slave ship in 1789, two years after slave trading had been declared illegal for Rhode Island residents. But that did not deter Warren’s Ebenezer Cole (Town Councilman for 11 terms), Captain Charles Collins (Town Councilman for 3 terms) and James and Level Maxwell from investing in the ship. It was designed with a middle deck less than five feet high where the kidnapped Africans would be imprisoned. The ship would not return for more than 8 months.
We know little about that journey. But the records of The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database — slavevoyages.org — states that 64 African men, women and children were forced onto the ship and then imprisoned for two months. Traveling through the torturous Middle Passage, at least eleven died; it’s likely their bodies were thrown overboard on the open sea. The surviving 53 people were sold into slavery in the Caribbean and the Abigail returned home with the profits.
The Warren Middle Passage Project is an all-volunteer group researching the history of the slave trade and enslavement in Warren, Rhode Island. Our goal is to document that history, build a memorial to those Africans who died or were sold into slavery, identify those people who were enslaved here as well as their descendants and recognize the crucial role African-Americans played in the building of Warren, Rhode Island and the United States.