FALL 2017 Newsletter

Envisioning "Race":
A Special Showing 

Thursday, October 18
6-8 pm

Cathedral of St. John
271 North Main Street
The Center for Reconciliation will sponsor a discussion of a select group of images and objects related to slavery and race, including some from private collections. This is a rare opportunity to see and learn about these items from Joanne Pope Melish, Ph. D., Professor Emerita, University of Kentucky. Dr. Melish is the author of Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and Race in New England, 1780 – 1860 . To register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/envisioning-race-a-special-showing-tickets-38313283061

The Art of Race  
Spaces are limited!

Thursday, November 16
6-7:30 pm

Meet at the Chace Center entrance to the RISD Museum
20 North Main Street
The Art of Race series returns November 16th. The program, first initiated by the CFR in 2016, provides opportunities to go behind the scenes at the RISD Museum, see pieces from their extensive collection that have never been on display, and discuss the intersection of art and race with community members from around the region. 

The program will be facilitated by art historians from RISD and historians focused on race and culture from the Center for Reconciliation Audience members are invited to look, listen and share their perspectives on these rarely seen works. This program is only open to 20 participants in order to engender deep thinking, a vigorous discussion, and the opportunity to get up close and personal with the art.

Recent Events
College Hill & the International Slave Trade Walking Tour:
Final Tour of 2017
Margaret Middleton live tweeted the tour and shared a few comments with us on Facebook.
The final regularly scheduled College Hill and International Slave Trade walking tour of the year took place on October 13. T his two hour, one mile urban hike explores 200 years of history, leads participants inside several local historic sites, discussing Rhode Island’s complicity and resistance to the international slave trade from a variety of viewpoints, and helps participants connect the history to modern day race relations.

A limited number of tours for groups of 10-20 are available this fall, with discounts off the regular $20 per ticket price. To set up a tour for your class, family, club or group of friends, contact info@cfrri.org. All proceeds from the tours go toward the Center for Reconciliation's programs and exhibitions. 

Interested in becoming a Center for Reconciliation tour guide?
The Center for Reconciliation will be hosting workshops to train new and experienced guides in the principles of interpreting race and slavery starting in April 2018. Contact Elon@cfrri.org for more details.
Doors Open Rhode Island Festival
The Inaugural Doors Open Rhode Island Festival was a smashing success for the Center for Reconciliation and the Cathedral of St. John.  Over 800 visitors stopped by for tours of the building, exhibits and the cemetery. The cathedral was one of over 20 historic sites open to the public without charge, most of which, like the cathedral, are not normally open to the public. Volunteers arriving early found a line outside the doors as early as 10 am even though the official start time was at noon. This was followed by a steady stream of visitors from around the state and around the world. 

Three areas were open for visitors. In the undercroft, or lower level, visitors were treated to two exhibitions on Rhode Island's history of slavery and volunteers excited to answer questions and discuss race in Rhode Island. The two exhibits were Black Mechanics: The Making of an American University and Nation, on loan from Brown's Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, and If Jane Should Want to be Sold , on loan from The Little Compton Historical Society. In the cathedral's sanctuary on the second floor, volunteers and staff shared the cathedral's history, discussed its architecture and renovation projects and the cathedral's future as a center for reconciliation. The las stop on the tour was the cathedral's colonial era cemetery. There volunteers focused their talks on the stories of enslaved and free Black members of the church along with slave owning members.

DoorsOpenRI is planned to become an annual event. We hope you will join us us next year!
Revolt and Reconciliation : Presentation and Discussion with author Patrick Breen about the Nat Turner Revolt and its impact on Racial Reconciliation
  • On September 7, Providence College Associate Professor of History Dr. Patrick Breen spoke about his recently published book, “The Land Shall be Deluged in Blood: A New History of the Nat Turner Revolt,” at a Center for Reconciliation event held at the Cathedral of St. John.

In 1831, Nat Turner led an uprising of enslaved people against the slave owning class of Southampton, Virginia. After lives trapped in the violent institution of slavery, Nat Turner and his followers armed themselves and waged war on their owners, killing about sixty masters. This was the highest number of deaths caused by an enslaved uprising in the South. The rebellion was put down within a few days, but led to widespread fear and violent retaliation by local whites. The state executed 56 enslaved people accused of being part of the rebellion, and white militias and mobs murdered another 120 enslaved and free African Americans.

After giving an overview of the rebellion Dr. Breen described lessons learned by both those seeking to create uprisings, and to suppress them. Previous revolts had been stopped before they happened because too many people knew about the plans, and someone inevitably talked. Turner’s insight was to keep the plans known to only a select few, and as a result, the rebellion lasted longer and was more devastating to the slave owners than earlier revolts. Those seeking to suppress the revolts also learned from his revolt, and across the South, states passed new laws prohibiting education of enslaved African-Americans and restricting rights of assembly and other civil rights for free black people.

Dr. Breen explored the history of three integrated churches in Virginia following the revolt. Since African-Americans were prohibited from having their own churches, they were accepted as part of some white worshipping communities. However, as fear among whites increased, congregations were divided over how much welcome to extend. Among these Baptist churches, the conflict centered on the administration of communion.  Dr. Breen described the meaning of the Lord’s Supper in Baptist churches as centering on relationships within the sharing community (in communion), rather than focusing on the communicant’s relationship with God, as in more liturgical churches. This presented a dilemma: How much did white church members want to be in communion with black members? Churches took different paths, from requiring communion to be distributed separately to black members by white lay leaders, to ending communion all together. Some church members and leaders who wanted to continue with an integrated communion were expelled from the church for a period of time.

Following Dr. Breen’s talk, Elon Cook, Program Director and Curator of the Center of Reconciliation spoke briefly about the CFR’s ongoing research into St. John's Cathedral’s historical connections to slave trade and slavery. She pointed out that three enslaved women are buried in St. John's cemetary. The church was built with the profits from the slave trade, either directly, or through ownership of textile mills, whose products were made from cotton harvested by slaves. Attendees then broke into small groups to discuss questions related to reconciliation today.

The CFR is planning other events in its new space in the ground floor of St. John's Cathedral early in 2018. Watch for further news!

Racial Reconciliation Work Around Rhode Island
St. Martin's Episcopal Church, Providence

On September 20, an exhibit was mounted in St. Martin’s atrium, called “BROADly”. The project was designed by a local organization called Youth In Action (YIA). It explores the typography, ethnology and socioeconomic understructure of every neighborhood along Broad St., from Empire St. to the Pawtuxet River.  

On Saturday, October 14, St. Martin's hosted the program Black Lives in RI, which was organized by ResistHateRI. Featured speakers include
  • Elon Cook - Race in RI, How the Legacy of Slavery Affects RI Today
  • Dr. Tricia Rose, Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race in America - How Structural Racism Works.
  • Jordan Seabury, Director of Public Policy at Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence

Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Newport
Emmanuel Church, Newport, is sponsoring a 3-part film series, "Race: The Power of an Illusion, on October 4, 11, and 18. Each program begins at 7 pm with the showing of a 56 minute film, followed by discussion and light refreshments.
For more information, contact betsidwyer@gmail.com.

Also during October, Emmanuel has hosted Merciful Conversations on Race: Let's Talk About White Privilege, a series of 5 two-hour sessions based on material developed by the United Church of Christ. Sponsored by the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, the series has also taken place at Chapel Street Congregational Church in Lincoln and First Evangelical Lutheran Church in East Greenwich.