Explore historic sites commemorating Black history in Rhode Island

Written by:
May 25, 2022
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Explore historic sites commemorating Black history in Rhode Island

The legacies of influential Black Americans have not always been acknowledged, so it's not uncommon that modern-day residents may overlook the historic sites of their own cities.

While some historical Black figures in the U.S. are more well-known than others, there are in fact thousands of people dating back generations to 17th-century slavery who left traces of their visions and impacts all across the country. Whether prominent figures such as Robert Abbott, who founded one of the largest African American newspapers in the country, or more under-the-radar originators such as Obrey Wendell Hamlet, who cultivated unique vacation experiences in the Rocky Mountains, one thing's for certain: There is far more uncharted Black history in this country than charted.

Stacker identified historic sites commemorating Black history across 47 states, using the National Register of Historic Places. North Dakota, Vermont, Hawaii, and Wyoming did not have Black historic sites listed on the registry. While some states, especially in the South, are home to many sites central to the civil rights movement, Stacker listed the total sites in every state and the names of three historic sites where available. You can visit the full registry of 232 historic sites and explore the Civil Rights Trail to learn about additional locations across the U.S.

Read on to explore and learn about the historic sites celebrating Black history in your state, or read the national story here.

Rhode Island by the numbers

- Sites commemorating Black history: 3 (0 with state significance, 2 with national significance)
- Battle of Rhode Island Site (Portsmouth)
- Smithville Seminary (Scituate)
- Cato Hill Historic District (Woonsocket)

The Battle of Rhode Island took place in 1778 during the American Revolutionary War and is the only major war that took place in the state. This particular war holds significance as it was the first time a large number of Black soldiers fought in an integrated military unit.

The Cato Hill Historic District got its name from Cato Aldrich, a Black man who bought land from the Arnold family, who were 17th-century founders of the city of Woonsocket. Today, the district is a historic, working-class neighborhood located slightly above Woonsocket's downtown area.

Continue reading to see which sites commemorate Black history in other states in your area.


- Sites commemorating Black history: 18 (11 with state significance, 2 with national significance)
- First Church of Christ (Farmington)
- Prudence Crandall House (Canterbury)
- Boce W. Barlow Jr. House (Hartford)

Created in 1926, Boce W. Barlow Jr. House was home to Boce W. Barlow Jr., who had a knack for making history. Barlow was not only the first African American judge in Connecticut in 1957, but he also became the state's first Black senator in 1966. Barlow purchased the home in 1958 and moved in with his wife, Catherine Barlow. They were the first Black family to move onto Canterbury Street.


- Sites commemorating Black history: 33 (6 with state significance, 9 with national significance)
- Du Bois, William E.B., Boyhood Homesite (Great Barrington)
- Cuffe, Paul, Farm (Westport)
- Johnson, Nathan and Mary, Properties (New Bedford)

The W.E.B. Du Bois Boyhood Homesite celebrates the life and legacy of civil rights activist and thought leader, W.E.B. Du Bois, the first African American to obtain a Ph.D. from Harvard University. The property, which had been in Du Bois' family for over 100 years, was given to him as a gift on his 60th Birthday in 1928.

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