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Friday, March 4, 2016

City Council Unanimously Supports Campaign to Memorialize Enslaved Africans

Initiative creates awareness of Rhode Island’s historic role in slavery
The Providence City Council passed a resolution on Thursday formalizing support for the Rhode Island Middle Passage Project, the local chapter of a national effort  to install historic markers memorializing the lives of enslaved Africans. The Rhode Island Middle Passage Project committee was recently formed and is working to create awareness of Rhode Island’s role in transatlantic human trade. The resolution was sponsored by Councilman Wilbur Jennings and co-sponsored by Councilwoman Mary Kay Harris and Councilman Seth Yurdin.
Although Rhode Island’s role in human trade is not widely recognized, more than half of all North American slaving voyages departed from Rhode Island ports.  “Most people probably aren’t familiar with Rhode Island’s role in the trade of captive Africans,” said Jennings. “For more than 150 years, the trade of enslaved people was a significant part of Rhode Island’s economy. The voyage from Africa to the Americas was brutal, and millions of Africans died without burial. The Rhode Island Middle Passage Project is working to honor those lives today.”
“For decades, Rhode Island was one of the most active Northern colonies in the trade of captive Africans,” said Yurdin, who represents downtown Providence and the area where the colonial port was once located.  “While no monument or ceremony can atone for the horrors of slavery, it is important to acknowledge our city’s role in human trade and educate future generations about that period in our history.”
“It’s an important resolution,” said Harris, a longtime supporter of the project. “It’s about bringing to light an important part of history that’s been buried. It’s time to really expose that history and bring it out of the shadows. Years ago, Ruth Simmons, the former president of Brown University, played a major role in starting this conversation. I’ve participated in many panels and discussions since then to keep the conversation going.”
The Rhode Island Middle Passage Project is the local chapter of the Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project (MPCPMP), a nonprofit initiative that works to create public memorial spaces in recognition of the millions of captive Africans brought to America to live in slavery and the millions of African lives lost at sea.