New address, same blog.

WordPress does a great job with free blogs but there is one catch — ads sometimes show up that are put there by WordPress.  The blog has no control of those ads — and does not receive money for them — and we just felt that wasn’t appropriate for Warren MIddle Passage Project.  And so we are now though our old address will still get you here.  We are a non-profit organization so I would have like to have gotten a .org address but that didn’t seem to be available.

I have seen an uptick in visitors lately, so let me say HI to all of you. I have recently begun a LINKS page and encourage you to take a look at the sites listed.  If you have one you think would be a good fit, please send it along.

Finding Primus.

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, 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 will huntPrimus 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.

negro woman hunt

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.hunt_restored

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.


Thank you East Providence.

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.”


PHEBE ANNOUNCEMENT WITH ENSLAVEMENTAt 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.

An exhibition worth seeing at URI Providence. Runs through February 22.


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.

We do a lot of reading and research in our work. Here’s the list of our resources.

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

Primary sources

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 MA,

Wills and Probate Records, 1635-1991

RI Historic Cemetery Commission Database

RI Vital Extracts, 1636-1899

RI, Wills and Probate Records, 1582-1932

Slavery in the North

US Census Bureau us

US Revolutionary War Rolls

Voyages: The Transatlantic Slave Trade Database

Wills and Inventories, Warren, RI

February, 2018

This Thursday, February 8, a discussion of RI textiles and Southern Slavery.

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


Community leaders meet to discuss Middle Passage Memorial.

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.

“Finding Phebe” spurs conversation.

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.”

dark work coverLocated 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.



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