African Heritage and Historical Sites in Rhode Island

Places associated with people and events important in the African American history in Rhode Island are all around us.  Executive Director of the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society and Preserve Rhode Island Trustee, Theresa Guzman Stokes, compiled the following list to help build awareness.

This list of ten historic African heritage sites in Rhode Island represents a starting point in the continuing effort of the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society to bring to the public an awareness of Rhode Island’s diverse and rich history. Preserve Rhode Island, whose mission is to protect and celebrate Rhode Island's historic places, stands with the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society in its efforts to continue to preserve and enhance those historic sites that represent monuments to the legacy of African heritage people in Rhode Island.

Gods Little Acre is a section of the Common Burying Ground dating back to 1705 that contains the oldest and largest collection of extant burial markers of enslaved and free Africans from the Colonial Era. The site also includes markers representing the earliest founders and leaders in African civic, educational and religious institutions in Rhode Island and America.

Photo from Gods Little Acre/Colonial Cemetery

Congdon Street Baptist Church is the first African heritage house of worship in Rhode Island dating back to 1819. The church congregation evolved from Providence’s African Union Society.

Photo from Congdon Street Baptist Church

The United Congregational Church was established in 1824.  The origins of the church and congregation date back to 1780 with the organization of the Free African Union Society, the first African benevolent association in America.

Photo from RI Black Heritage Society


*Please note* This property is now a private residence.

The Brick Schoolhouse aka Meeting Street School was an early site providing public education for African heritage children dating back to 1828. Today, the historic building is the headquarters of Providence Preservation Society.

In 1824 & 1831, major white-led race riots caused significant destruction and disruptions to the largely African heritage communities of Hard Scrabble and Snow Town in Providence..

Image - Town of Providence in 1827, with Snowtown-to-be in foreground.

(engraving by J.P. Murphy) from Architecture Here and There

The Fayerweathers were a leading free African heritage family in 19th century Rhode Island. The Fayerweather Home built by blacksmith George Fayerweather was meeting site for abolitionist activities.

Photo from Kingston Improvement Association

The Patriots Park site includes a monument and memorial park celebrating the history of the Battle of Rhode Island in 1778 and the 1st Rhode Island Regiment, which was the first organized American regiment that included African and Native soldiers during the American Revolution.

Photo from The Rhode Island Society of the Sons of the American Revolution

Mary H. Dickerson was one of the most influential African American women and civil rights leaders in America.

In 1895 she was a founder of the Women's League Newport. In 1896 she was a founding member of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs and in 1903 she established the first federation of African American Women’s Club in Rhode Island. The Women’s League Newport still operates and owns the founding home on Gould Street.

Photo from RI Black Heritage Society

Rev Van Horne served as pastor of Union Congregational Church between 1868 and 1900. The home served as a parish house for the church. Van Horne became the first African American elected to the Newport School Board in 1872 and first African American elected to the Rhode Island General Assembly in 1885. Later he was appointed Consul to Danish West Indies by President McKinley.

Photo from RI Black Heritage Society

George Thomas Downing would become one of 19th century America’s most prominent civil rights leaders. He was also a well-established hospitality entrepreneur in Newport as the proprietor of the Sea Girt House luxury hotel along with a confectionery and catering business at the Downing Block that still bears his name.

Photo from RI Black Heritage Society

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Preserve Rhode Island Headquarters

Jeremiah Dexter House

957 North Main Street

Providence, RI 02904

(401) 272-5101

Lippitt House Museum

199 Hope Street

Providence, RI 02906

(401) 453-0688

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