Local Project Joins the National Park Service’s African American Civil Rights Network 

New Curriculum Units and online exhibits based on research from RIBHS, RIHPHC, and RIHS about African heritage civil rights in Rhode Island available online for free

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Rhode Island Historical Society (RIHS), the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society (RIBHS), and the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission (RIHPHC) have made available the results of their collaboration “African American Civil Rights in Rhode Island: the 20th Century.” The products of two years worth of research and public programming are now accessible through the project webpage. This page was added to the National Park Service’s African American Civil Rights Network which highlights and honors sites and programs associated with the Civil Rights Movement.

The page features a research report, online exhibits, and curriculum unit plans.The lesson units include primary resources from RIHS, RIBHS, RIHPHC and other organizations in the state.  Primary resources include newspaper articles, photographs, oral history audio clips, and video clips. The lessons associated with the primary resources cover Rhode Island civil rights issues such as fair housing, fair employment, equal opportunity in schooling, race, and identity.  The high school lessons include topics such as high school student protests, forms of activism, and community leaders. Examples from these topics span the 20th century and connect with current events.  

The Rhode Island Historical Society’s Director of the Goff Center for Education and Public Programs notes that “The project partners are proud to have produced these free resources available to teachers, researchers, and interested publics as a culmination of years of research about this very important period in Rhode Island’s history. 

The national story of the struggle for African American Civil Rights is well-known, and now there is a webpage devoted to the local stories that took place right here in Rhode Island.”

Electronic versions of two panel exhibits, Rhode Island African Heritage Civil Rights History: A Summary of over 300 years of History, and The Power of Place in Civil Rights: African American Struggle for Civil Rights in the 20th Century are also available on this webpage.  


This work was supported by a $49,557.76 grant from the National Park Service (NPS) through its African American Civil Rights Grant Program, which assists projects that “document, interpret, and preserve the sites and stories related to the African American struggle to gain equal rights as citizens in the 20th Century.” The grant was announced in January of 2017. 

Rhode Island’s project spans three major efforts.


In Phase 1, RIBHS researchers conducted oral history interviews, studied primary and secondary sources, and produced a comprehensive study of the state’s 20th-century African American Civil Rights history.


For Phase 2, The Public Archaeology Laboratory, Inc. (PAL), working primarily with the RIHPHC, was hired to survey historic sites, prepared survey sheets, and wrote a narrative report that includes a context statement, analysis of the group of sites, and recommendations for National Register eligibility.


For the final phase, Phase 3, the team hosted two exhibit opening events and two workshops for teachers, and developed five curriculum unit plans. 

About the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission

The Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission is the state agency for historical preservation and heritage programs. The RIHPHC operates a statewide historical preservation program that identifies and protects historic buildings, districts, structures, and archaeological sites. The Commission also develops and carries out programs to document and celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Rhode Island’s people.

About the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society

As one of the oldest African Heritage organizations in the country, the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society has recorded, retained, and interpreted historical facts and preserved the documents and artifacts of African American and African descendants’ history and accomplishments in Rhode Island. Its primary mission is the preservation of African Diaspora descendants’ historical artifacts – books, art, papers and images, as well as facilitating the interpretation efforts by those seeking to enlighten others about black heritage.

About the Rhode Island Historical Society

Founded in 1822, the RIHS, a Smithsonian Affiliate, is the fourth-oldest historical society in the United States and is Rhode Island’s largest and oldest historical organization. In Providence, the RIHS owns and operates the John Brown House Museum, a designated National Historic Landmark, built in 1788; the Aldrich House, built in 1822 and used for administration and public programs; and the Mary Elizabeth Robinson Research Center, where archival, book and image collections are housed. In Woonsocket, the RIHS manages the Museum of Work and Culture, a community museum examining the industrial history of northern Rhode Island and of the workers and settlers, especially French-Canadians, who made it one of the state’s most distinctive areas.