Historic Black Regiment Celebrated

By Newport This Week Staff, August 22, 2019

For the last 50 years, the Newport County Branch of the NAACP has commemorated the Black Regiment’s victory on Aug. 28, 1778 in Portsmouth. (Photo by Jen Carter)

Originally published in Newport This Week

The Black Regiment, also known as the First Rhode Island Regiment, played a critical part in the Revolutionary War, engaging in significant battles at Fort Oswego, New York, Saratoga, New York, Red Bank, New Jersey and Yorktown, Virginia. For the last 50 years, the Newport County Branch has commemorated the Black Regiment’s victory on Aug. 28, 1778 in Portsmouth.

Once again this year, a ceremony will take place at Patriots Park in Portsmouth to mark the battle. Sen. Harold M. Metts will be the guest speaker. Metts, a leader in civil rights, has sponsored numerous legislation that gives equal opportunity to all people in areas of education, employment, housing and health services.

Serving as master of ceremonies will be Frank Newsome, former star athlete and now a teacher and coach at Rogers High School. Greetings will be offered by James I. Winters, president of the Newport County Branch, NAACP. Joshua Jeudy of the Community Baptist Church will deliver the Invocation and Benediction. The combined choirs of the Community Baptist Church and Mt. Zion AME Church, under the direction of Frances Johnson, will present the musical selections.

“The Newport County Branch is keenly aware that 2019 marks the 400th anniversary of the establishment of slavery in the United States,” said the Newport NAACP in a press release. “It is extremely important that we all recognize that slavery is not only a gross abridgement of basic human rights, but also that those who were enslaved endured their suffering so that succeeding generations would be able to find a better life. While we may take for granted these days the many freedoms that we enjoy, we must remain mindful that the deprivation of liberty is one of the harshest measures that one human being can exact on another.”

Men of African ancestry formed the largest percentage of the membership in the regiment. Initially, there was resistance to having these men join the Revolutionary War. But, as has often been said, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” so authorization was granted and the men signed up for the war against the British occupiers and aggressors.

When they disbanded and returned home, it was without much recognition or monetary compensation. But their legacy endures because of their strong belief in justice and equality. By example, they paved the way for generations that followed to say that it always is worthwhile to take a valiant stand for freedom and democracy.

The measuring or searching rod symbol above is called a “HWEHW£ MU DUA.” It symbolizes excellence or perfection.

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