2021 Buchanan Burnham Summer Scholars in Public History Announced May 2021 


 Newport, RI – The Newport Historical Society is pleased to announce the 2021 Buchanan Burnham Summer Scholars in Public History: Alex Bice, MA student, North Eastern University; Zoe Hume, MS graduate, Florida State University; Hampton Smith, Ph.D. candidate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


The scholars’ remote work will involve examining manuscripts from the NHS archives to pull out details of the lives of people of African and Native descent living in colonial Newport, Rhode Island. Colonial Newport was a hub of the colonial transatlantic trade in human beings.


Although few ships are documented to have come to Newport directly from Africa with human cargo for sale, the economy of Newport, geared towards trade and specifically the slave trade, encouraged the owning of slaves to provide uncompensated labor. The percentage of the population of Newport that was of African descent at various points in the Colonial period was the highest in New England.


Because there were a number of routes by which enslaved people were able to free themselves, even before Newport’s Quaker population, and others, began advocating for manumission, not all Africans were enslaved. This multi-year project intends to attempt to track the details of individual lives regardless of status, debunk any suggestion that it is impossible to bring formerly marginalized populations into the historical narrative because they don’t exist in the record; and as comprehensively as possible, document this evidence and get an index online so that researchers can begin to find it.


NHS will also begin the process of assembling biographies for at least some of the African and Native people of early Rhode Island. We believe that these biographies will help enhance and support the work of Black-run efforts to highlight the history of Rhode Island’s long association with the slave trade and of African heritage history generally.


Biographies will also allow us to weave a story of Rhode Island’s colonial more coherently past that is inclusive and complete for our audiences. About the Newport Historical Society Since 1854, the Newport Historical Society has collected and preserved the artifacts, photographs, documents, publications, and genealogical records that relate to the history of Newport County, to make these materials readily available for both research and enjoyment, and to act as a resource center for the education of the public about the history of Newport County, so that knowledge of the past may contribute to a fuller understanding of the present.


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