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‘Six of the First’: Imagining a Counter-history of Slavery Through Sculpture

August 8 @ 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm

Thursday August 8, 6:30 PM- 7:30 PM (doors open at 5:30), 82 Touro Street. 

Join artist Jean-Marc Superville Sovak and historian Peter Fay in conversation with Dr. Akeia de Barros Gomes (Mystic Seaport Museum) on the ways in which we can reckon with history through creative practice.

In 1743, Yallah, Morandah, Mowoorie, Simboh, Burrah, and Yearie—six African women who had been trafficked from what is now Sierra Leone aboard the Jolly Bachelor—were sold into slavery in Newport. Centering around the sculpture that honors these women, “Six of the First,” Jean-Marc and Peter will discuss how a historian and an artist sifted through the silences of the archive to reimagine what came before (and after) their lives in slavery.

They will explore the importance of reconstructing a historical narrative in a way that challenges the archives. They will advocate for public art that connects viewers in the present to people in the past and asks, “To what extent have we truly been freed from our past?”

Tickets are $20 per person, $15 Newport Historical Society members, active-duty military and students. This program takes place at 82 Touro Street, doors at 5:30PM, lecture begins at 6:30 PM.


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Jean-Marc Superville Sovak (left) is an artist whose work “critically fabulates” around silent histories of multi-racial identities that make up the DNA of this country as well as his own. His “a-Historical Landscapes” involve altering original 19th-century landscape engravings to include images from Anti-Slavery publications. His public artworks include monuments to Afro-Dutch pioneers in Rockland County, NY, and a memorial to some of the earliest Africans to arrive in Rhode Island. A Bard College M.F.A. graduate, Jean-Marc is the recipient of an Individual Artist’s Commission and an Empowering Artist Award from Art Mid-Hudson, as well as a Support for Artists Grant from NYSCA. His artwork has been exhibited at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park, and Recess Arts, Brooklyn, and is in the permanent collections of the Loeb Arts Center and the Dorsky Museum where he has served as Guest Curator. Jean-Marc has been Visiting Artist at Bard College, SUNY New Paltz, Columbia University and Vassar College.

Over the past twenty years, public historian Peter Fay (right) has pored over Rhode Island historical archives, uncovering unknown and overlooked people and stories. In 2021, he uncovered the sale of adult and child slaves by the Jamestown Town Council long after the war of independence, a story landing on the front page of the Providence Journal. He also unearthed and published the story of 20 captives of the slave ship Jolly Bachelor, auctioned in Newport in 1743. He was the first to identify Black revolutionary soldiers from Jamestown who were never acknowledged, some of whom fought and died in the final victorious battle at Yorktown.

Peter Fay lectures and publishes with a Marxist perspective of history on the labor movement, the wampum trade, the rise of the textile industry, and whalers and sailors. He sits on the boards of several historical societies and the Newport Middle Passage Project.

Dr. Akeia de Barros Gomes is the William E. Cook Vice President of the American Institute for Maritime Studies and the Director of the Frank C. Munson Institute of American Maritime History at Mystic Seaport Museum. She is responsible for working on curatorial projects of race, Indigenous histories, ethnicity, and diversity in New England’s Maritime activities. She leads a multi-disciplinary team to examine Mystic Seaport Museum’s and other regional collections to develop contemporary re-imaginings of people’s actions in the past and present and translating that into content relevant to today’s social environment. Akeia received her BA in anthropology/archaeology at Salve Regina University and her MA and PhD in anthropology/archaeology at the University of Connecticut.

Banner credit: Madison van Wylen Photography.


August 8
6:30 pm - 7:30 pm
Event Category:


NHS Resource Center
82 Touro Street
Newport, RI 02840
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Newport Historical Society