Know Your History

Resources on Newport's African American History

There are long stretches of our lives when it seems that nothing will ever change, and then, in a moment, everything is changing. As we live through this time, with disease, economic uncertainty, and social unrest, history can help us with empathy and understanding. ‘Know Your History’ will now be a web presence and a focus for NHS. Here, we will try to connect our audiences with historical information that is relevant to the moment and what is happening in the world. Direct parallels to the past are not the point; rather we hope to address questions like “how did we get here?” while we struggle to answer “and what are we going to do now?” For the moment, this page will offer resources on Newport and Rhode Island’s history relative to people of African descent, and on the history of protest. The resources displayed here will change as we develop and discover new ones. Look here, too, when new controversies and events begin to unfold. We will continue to try to provide useful data from the past.

Abolition & Anti-Abolition

The latest issue of the peer-reviewed publication 'Newport History: Journal of the Newport Historical Society' features the article “Abolition and Anti-Abolition in Newport, Rhode Island, 1835-1866,” by Joey La Neve DeFrancesco. Click the link below to learn how a determined and cohesive African-American community overcame the maneuvers of the local powerful pro-slavery bloc, and succeeded in building institutions that had a profound impact on the lives of black Newporters in the nineteenth century.
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John Lewis

John Lewis, the civil rights leader who died on July 17, wrote this essay shortly before his death, to be published upon the day of his funeral. Mr. Lewis writes "You must also study and learn the lessons of history because humanity has been involved in this soul-wrenching, existential struggle for a very long time. People on every continent have stood in your shoes, through decades and centuries before you. The truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time." Click the link below to read the full piece.
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Self-Guided Walking Tour of Newport

This hour-long tour touches on Newport’s 18th century economy, practice of religious toleration, politics and the city’s diverse population – enslaved and free, during Newport’s colonial period. Click the link below to download a free PDF, which includes a map of the tour route.

Touching Base: Race, Sport, and Community in Newport

Please enjoy free access to an article from 'Newport History', the flagship peer-reviewed publication of the Newport Historical Society! Across the country in June 2020, leaders tipped their caps to honor the creation of the Negro Leagues in 1920. "Touching Base: Race, Sport, and Community in Newport," originally published by Robert Cvornyek in the Winter 2016 issue of "Newport History," uncovers a wealth of information about local African-American teams and players, the integration of baseball in Newport and the visits to the city of elite Negro League teams. Access to our complete journal archive is included with NHS Membership.
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African American Church Membership of Hotel Era Newport

This social history mapping project focuses on Newport’s mid-to-late nineteenth century African American community, using data compiled from from local church records, census documents, and maps from the NHS collection. Click the link below to explore the project.