RISHM History

Since its founding in 2017, 16 bronze medallions have been installed across RI and public interest is growing for historical recognition and equity.

Medallions provide a publicly accessible history of unheard Black life stories and the vital contributions made to the nation.

2017

Founding

Founded in 2017, RISHM was inspired by the late-20th-century urban blight of Newport, Rhode Island. As a child, executive director Charles Roberts played in God's Little Acre, an African and African American cemetery located within the Common Burying Ground, unaware of the significance of the space around him. Determined to inform his community about Rhode Island's role in the Atlantic slave trade, Roberts founded RISHM.
2017
2019

First Medallion Installation

The first Rhode Island Slave History Medallion is installed at Patriots Park in Portsmouth. Patriots Park is the location where many black, native and mixed ethnicity soldiers fought in the Battle of Rhode Island in the summer of 1778 during the American Revolution.
2019
2020

Second Set of Medallions Installed

During 2020, RISHM oversaw the installation of 2 new medallions at Bowen's Wharf in Newport and and Smith's Castle in North Kingstown.
2020
2021

Third Set of Medallions Installed

During 2021 RISHM oversaw the installation of 3 new medallions at East Ferry Wharf in Jamestown, the Linden Place Museum and the DeWolf Warehouse and Wharf in Bristol.
2021
2020-Present

Funding

RISHM has received funding from the Heritage Harbor Foundation, Channing Memorial Church, BankNewport, and the Newport Historical Society.[4] In 2020, and again in 2022, RISHM received a $10,000 grant from the Rhode Island Foundation
2020-Present
2020

Rhode Island General Assembly recognition

In 2020, a resolution, RI H7643, was sponsored in the Rhode Island General Assembly by Representatives Lauren Carson, Marvin Abney, Joseph Almeida, Raymond Hull, and Anastasia Williams, entitled "House Resolution Recognizing The Rhode Island Slave History Medallion Statewide Education Program."

The bill formally recognized RISHM as a statewide education program and stated; "The Rhode Island History Medallions Project will make the history of the Slave Trade in Rhode Island more accessible to Rhode Islanders. The Medallions placed at slave-related historical localities serve as awareness educational symbols. In the words of Mr. Lonnie B. Bunch, III, 14th Secretary of the Smithsonian, "Let us use history to inspire us to push a country forward, to help us believe that all things are possible and to demand a country lives up to its stated ideals."[3]

The bill was signed by Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee.
2020
2022

Fourth Set of Medallions Installed

In 2022, RISHM oversaw the installation of 4 new medallions at the Rocky Hill Country Day School in East Greenwich, Casey Farm in North Kingstown, the Barrington Public Library and Trinity Church in Newport.
2022
2023

Fifth Set of Medallions Installed

In 2023, RISHM oversaw the installation of 2 new medallions in Newport, one at the William Ellery Channing - Duchess Quamino House and the William Vernon House.
2023
2024

Sixth Set of Medallions Installed

In 2024, RISHM oversaw the installation of 3 new medallions in Newport, at St. John's Episcopal Church, the Shiloh Baptist Church, and the Ezra Stiles House, as well as 1 new medallion in Providence at the Stephen Hopkins House.
2024
June, 2024

Walking Tour

RISHM's Black History Walking Tour of Newport, Rhode Island officially opens to the public. The Tour explores the legacy of slavery in Rhode Island and the narrative of Newport's African-American community.
June, 2024
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