The Rhode Island Black Heritage Society was constituted for the purposes of procuring, collecting, and preserving books, pamphlets, letters, manuscripts, prints, photographs, paintings, and historical materials relating to the history of African Americans in Rhode Island. It also encourages and promotes the study of African-American history through lectures and making information available to the general public.
A Message From the President
Joyce Stevos, PhD, on behalf of The Rhode Island Black Heritage Society
In 1975, the founding members of The Rhode Island Black Heritage Society sought to preserve three centuries of African-American experience in our state by identifying local “"Keepers of the Story.” With their all-important support, the Society assembled a collection that documents local African Americans’ accomplishments in the fields of military service, business, politics, the arts and education.
The first public sharing of that collection took form in a Rhode Island Black Heritage Society exhibit entitled “A Heritage Discovered: Black in Rhode Island.” A decade later in 1985 came the award-winning exhibit and publication, “Creative Survival.”
Over the intervening years, your friends and neighbors, along with thousands of other Rhode Islanders, have earned “"Keeper of the Story” status by helping to preserve the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society and its collection, through support of the annual Black Heritage Ball.
Today, the need for a fresh infusion of support cannot be overstated. As you may know, The Rhode Island Black Heritage Society recently was forced to move out of the now-vacant Arcade in downtown Providence. Its collection of our stories has been sent into exile, locked away in a storage facility that affords neither access nor a sophisticated preservation environment.
Among the at-risk, irreplaceable treasures in The Rhode Island Black Heritage Society's collection are slave documents; a pew from the historic Pond Street Church; memorabilia from famed opera singer Sissieretta Jones; and original canvasses by Edward Bannister, co-founder and creative force behind the Providence Art Club.
The bottom line: three centuries of Black history in Rhode Island are in danger of becoming faded historical abstractions. No more exhibits. No more access. Gone... Unless we become 21st century “Keepers of the Story."
Today, founders and past chairs of The Rhode Island Black Heritage Society acknowledge their leadership and cultural responsibilities to the Society they once directed, by coming together to plan its rebirth.
At the heart of The Rhode Island Black Heritage Society's mission is the ancient tradition of preservation of family and faith. We are driven by the pride and confidence instilled by cultural memory and manifested in initiative, risk-taking, and civic leadership.
We are committing time, energy, and personal financial resources to the task at hand. But we cannot hope to succeed without you by our sides.
Your generous financial contribution will allow the rich and detailed history of African-American heritage in Rhode Island once again to see the light of day, and will ensure that the lessons we all stand to learn from these documents and cultural artifacts will not be forgotten.
Please donate today and support us in the fulfillment of our important duty. Please help us to preserve our history.
We look forward to thanking you for joining the ranks of “Keepers of the Story" - a Story which you will be remembered as a guardian.