A new guide, "On The Rhode to Freedom" created by the nonprofit group, Stages of Freedom, is a roadside guide to African American sites in Rhode Island.
Spearheaded by co-founder Rob Dimmock, the guide "explores the rich and compelling contributions of African Americans on the landscape and cultural heritage of Rhode Island." Many of the sites featured in the guide can be found right here in the Blackstone Valley. Here are a few examples taken from the guide.
- Woonsocket - Woonsocket City Hall, 169 Main Street. Built by abolitionist Edward Harris, this site hosted Abraham Lincoln's unprecedented second visit to Rhode Island in March 1860. He spoke to a packed audience, defending his position that the nation could not endure half slave and half free. (See plaque located in entryway.)
- Cumberland - Abolitionist Elizabeth Buffum Chace moved to Valley Falls in 1839 when her husband, Samuel, took over management of the Valley Falls Mills on the Blackstone River. There in the Currier House (no longer standing) they established the main stop on the Underground Railroad in Rhode Island.
- North Smithfield - Banneker Industries, 582 Great Road. Named for the great Black mathematician, Benjamin Banneker, Cheryl Snead founded Banneker Industries, a world-class provider of supply chain solutions, specializing in third and fourth-party logistics services, in 1991.
The Project is funded by RI Humanities and is truly full of interesting information and couldn't be more timely. As Dimmock noted in an article published by the Valley Breeze, “We really do feel like now is the time to recognize black lives have always been here, and continue to be here. And here are ways to touch those lives that came before us in a powerful and meaningful way." Read on.