History Bytes: The Life and Travels of Newport Gardener

September 24, 2019

Guest post by Kristin Uscinski, co-host of the podcast ‘Footnoting History’.

In the 1760s, Occramer Marycoo was taken to the American colonies against his will. When he re-crossed the Atlantic in 1826, he was a free man who also went by the name Newport Gardner. In between, he was a composer, a teacher, a small-business owner, and a prominent member of Newport, Rhode Island’s free African community.

Letter written by Newport Gardner to “Sarah Burk to the care of Mrs. Gardner Ladd, Alexandria.” (2012.3)

The archives of the Newport Historical Society house documents that detail Newport Gardener’s community engagement through organizations like the African Union Society and the African Benevolent Society. While he was not a founding member of the African Union Society, nor its first president, he was an integral member of the organization and served as its secretary for many years. He was the first school teacher of the African Benevolent Society’s African Free School and would later go on to serve as President of the ABS for almost ten years.

In a newly released episode of Footnoting History, you can follow the remarkable journey of the man, who bought his freedom and returned to Africa, known as both Occramer Marycoo – and Newport Gardner.