What’s Up Newport: Newport Historical Society launches new digital database to highlight Black and Indigenous history

February 8, 2024


By: Ryan Belmore, What’s Up Newport

The Newport Historical Society (NHS) is launching a new digital database that will make it easier for people to find and learn about the history of Black and Indigenous people in Newport.

The project, called Voices from the NHS Archives, has been in the works for years and includes reviewing 4,000 church records, business papers, ship logs, and other documents from the NHS archives. This is the first digital tool of its kind to be launched in Rhode Island, and it is modeled after the successful Enslaved.org website, which documents the lives of enslaved people in the U.S.

“Traditional histories of Newport in the 17th-19th centuries—and our own history as an organization—have centered on the white and the powerful,” said NHS Executive Director Rebecca Bertrand. “Voices from the NHS Archives is an effort to increase access to the vibrant stories and experiences of people of color in Newport.”

Users can search for documents using filters including race, gender, occupation, and freedom status. The database will also be curated to include more information on the lives of people who lived and worked in Newport during the era of slavery.

“We hope this database will be an invaluable tool for people for generations to come,” said Douglas Newhouse, the NHS Board of Directors president.

In addition to the digital archive, Newport Historical Society curated more than 15 stories of people who lived and worked in Newport during the era of slavery. Five of the stories will be at the center of a complementary exhibit, “A Name, A Voice, A Life: The Black Newporters of the 17th-19th Centuries,” which will open in May 2024 in the NHS’ Richard I. Burnham Resource Center on Touro Street.

To learn more about Newport Historical Society’s collections, events, and programming, visit www.NewportHistory.org.

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