Stories of Enslavement, Indenture and Freedom in Little Compton
Speaker: Marjory Gomez O’Toole
- Wednesday, August 10, 2016
- United Congregational Church
- 7:00 PM Business Meeting
- 7:15 PM Speaker
- 8:00 PM Refreshments, Book Sales, Author Signing
- Please Note: The memorial dedication originally planned for 6:30 PM in the cemetery has been postponed because of a delay with the monument.
Marjory O’Toole, Little Compton Historical Society Managing Director, will share the personal stories of some of Little Compton’s 250 enslaved and forcibly indentured people during her talk at the organization’s Annual Meeting. The event is free and open to the public and will be held on Wednesday, August 10 at 7 PM at the United Congregational Church on the Little Compton Commons. Members of the Historical Society are especially encouraged to attend to vote on the organization’s board members and officers. A brief business meeting will take place from 7 to 7:15, followed by Ms. O’Toole’s talk. The evening will conclude with refreshments and a book-signing.
Ms. O’Toole has been the Managing Director of the Historical Society for over a decade. She is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Public Humanities at Brown University. For the last three years she has been conducting primary source research that sheds light on the lives of Little Compton’s enslaved and forcibly indentured men, women and children who lived and worked in the community from 1674 to 1816.
This summer, and specifically August 5, 2016, marks the 200th anniversary of the end of slavery in Little Compton. Kate Hilliard, the last person known to be enslaved in Little Compton, gained her freedom on August 5, 1816 when her owner, David Hilliard’s will, was approved in the local probate court. David granted Kate her freedom in his will and directed his grandson to care for her in her old age. Kate was enslaved by the Hilliard family throughout her life and worked in their tavern and the poor house that they ran. She married an enslaved man named Prince Grinnell and together they had at least two children.
The Historical Society is celebrating the end of slavery in Little Compton by honoring the lives of enslaved people like Kate Hilliard. Their stories were lost from our local history for over two hundred years and have only recently been rediscovered through the Historical Society and Ms. O’Toole’s efforts. This July the Society published Ms. O’Toole’s book entitled “If Jane Should Want to Be Sold, Stories of Enslavement Indenture and Freedom in Little Compton, Rhode Island” and opened a special exhibit by the same title. The book is now available at the Historical Society’s museum shop and Wilbur’s General Store, Earle’s Gas Station, Gray’s Daily Grind and Partner’s Village Store as well as amazon.com. It is also available for loan at the Brownell Library and other libraries throughout the state.
Reservations are not required for the annual meeting. Directions and more information is available by calling 401-635-4035.
The Little Compton Historical Society and The Brownell Library are pleased to welcome Ray Rickman to Little Compton to speak on “Racism and its Roots in Slavery” at 6 PM, Wednesday, August 3, 2016. The event is free and open to the public and will take place in the tent behind the Brownell Library. Refreshments will be served thanks to a generous “Friend of the Brownell Library.”
Ray Rickman is a long-time advocate for equality and justice in Rhode Island and is considered a leader in the promotion of African American history and culture. He resided in Little Compton every September for eleven years from 2000 to 2011.
Mr. Rickman has been a prominent figure in Rhode Island politics and culture since he came to this state over three decades ago. He is a former State Representative from College Hill in Providence and served as Deputy Secretary of State from 2000 to 2002. Mr. Rickman is also a rare book dealer and conducts general and African American cultural tours of the College Hill neighborhood. He is a former president of the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society and was secretary of the Rhode Island Historical Society for seven years. He was also the first treasurer of the Heritage Harbor Museum and is a member of the Rhode Island 1663 Colonial Charter Commission. He and the late Posey Wiggins co-taught a class using the 1883 William J. Brown autobiography as a tool to teach about racial and cultural issues in 19th-century Rhode Island. In the 1970s, Rickman served as Chief of Staff for United States Congressman John Conyers, Jr. During his tenure working for the Congressman, Ray worked next to Rosa Parks.
Ray currently serves as the president of the Rickman Group, a consulting firm that helps nonprofit organizations and other small businesses with development and fundraising and as the executive director of Stages of Freedom, a non-profit organization that produces and promotes Black cultural events to raise funds for their programs that engage and empower youth of color in Rhode Island.
Among Stages of Freedoms’ programming is Swim Empowerment, which raises funds to provide swimming lessons to youth of color and to increase the state’s awareness of the history of exclusion of African Americans from public pools and the resulting disparity in drowning related injuries and death that disproportionately afflict communities of color.
This talk is a collaboration between the Brownell Library and the Little Compton Historical Society and is part of a year-long project honoring the 200th anniversary of the end of slavery in Little Compton. The Historical Society will be hosting other speakers is a series featuring authors and historians with expertise on slavery and freedom in New England. The series is made possible by the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities and will run through February 2017. Each event is free and open to the public.
Joanne Pope Melish, a nationally-recognized authority on gradual emancipation in New England, will begin the Little Compton Historical Society’s Slavery and Freedom Speakers’ Series on Tuesday, July 19 at 7 PM at the United Congregational Church on the Commons. Dr. Melish has entitled her talk The Worm in the Apple: Slavery, Emancipation, and Race in Rhode Island. She will discuss, among other topics, the amnesia that New England developed concerning its history of slave-holding and the emergence of racism as a means of control once slavery ended in the North.
Dr. Melish is well-known as the author of “Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and “Race” in New England, 1780-1860” (Cornell University Press) a book that has been frequently used and discussed in university classrooms across the country since its publication in 1998. Dr. Melish is Associate Professor of History Emerita at the University of Kentucky, where she also directed the American Studies Program for several years. Dr. Melish received her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in American Civilization from Brown University and now resides in Rhode Island. In addition to Disowning Slavery, she has authored many essays on race and slavery in the early republic and on slavery in public history. Currently she is working on a book-length project tentatively entitled “Gradual Alienation: How a Multiracial Laboring Class Formed, Persisted, and Became Invisible in the Post-Revolutionary North.”
The Historical Society’s Slavery and Freedom Speakers’ Series is generously sponsored by the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities. The talks are free and open to the public. Reservations are not required.