When my Navy duties brought me to Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society served as my doorway to assimilating into the African-American Community of the Ocean State. It later served as an organization whose members became friends and associates as I transitioned to roles as a community leader and as an executive in government and business.

The Rhode Island Black Heritage Society stood as the resource and learning organization that shared the history of Black Americans and the accomplishments of people of African Descendent who were making contributions to the quality of life, governance and commerce of the state.

Without the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society, the history and continuous recording of contributions, living and progress of African-Americans would be loss to coming generations of Rhode Islanders.

As with the Rhode Island Historic Preservation and Historic Commission, the mission of the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society is the preservation of African-American history, interpretation of that history and education of the public. That history dates from the initial beginnings of the republic that rose from the mingling of colonists and Native people, the introduction of African slaves and free men to the tapestry of races and creeds that populate South County to shores of the Narragansett Bay to the northern reaches of Rhode Island.

The Rhode Island Black Heritage Society (RIBHS) holds the core of African-American History as envisioned by our Founder Dr. Rowena Stewart and seven stalwart incorporators who gave time, talent and what treasure they had or could raise to preserve the stories of a people who created their own survival to fight for the independence of the national and later their own freedom to vote and exercise the rights and privileges of citizens of these United States.

Our primary mission is the preservation of African-American and African descendant’s historical artifacts – books, art, papers and images, as well as facilitating the interpretation of history to enlighten others about our heritage. As the evolution of life and circumstances in Rhode Island have progressed, we continue to remind generations of the bondage of slavery, the emergence of Black people as journeymen, merchants and business owners to service in uniform throughout the wars of the nation.

As the African Diaspora has been recognized and grown in Rhode Island. we are now reaching out to be more inclusive by not only telling the story of slaves who over the generations have given birth to current day leaders in our nation, but we have embraced African Descendants who have arrived from the Caribbean, Central America, Africa and other birthplaces in our global village.

We have a continuing commitment to focus on a more inclusive program of exhibits, research and events that will share history and open insights into the future that creative survival has made possible for African descendants - from former slaves to immigrants and to native born descendants. We have a responsibility to educate the public, advancing the culture and documenting the contributions of the total Black Community in Rhode Island.

The Rhode Island Black Heritage Society serves the entire African descendant community including African-Americans, African immigrants, Black Hispanics and people who have origins in the races of Africa.

This past year, the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society embarked on a new direction to deliver its definition of African Heritage experiences of the past and continuing advances within Rhode Island, the United States and the wider African Diaspora. We represent the more than 60,189 Black or African-American Rhode Islanders, a significant portion of the 130,655 non-White Hispanic or Latino Rhode Islanders and the remainder of the 1,052,567 Rhode Islanders who benefit from our educational programs, research resources and presence in the community as an authority on African Heritage.

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 descendant’s history and accomplishments in Rhode Island. The vision of the Founder and Incorporators continues to be realized.

We are celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the founding of the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society – FORTY FOR FREEDOM.

You are invited to embrace the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society as your gateway to experiencing the rich heritage, accomplishments and the community of African Descendants in Rhode Island. You are invited to view our online exhibits, access our resources for scholarly pursuits or simply join us for a lecture, cultural event or our annual awards gala.

We seek new members, volunteers and contributors who are willing to offer support in obtaining and preserving historical assets. participate in our programs and further the mission of the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society.

Welcome to our website and other media extensions of the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society.

On behalf of the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society

WILLIAM F. BUNDY., PH.D. Chairman of the Board

Our Honored Founders


Rowena Stewart – Founder



Oliver Burton, Jr.
Albert Klyberg
Clifton Moore
William Robinson

Joyce Stevos
George Turville
Michael Van Leesten
Frederick Williamson

Board of Directors


Tomas Avila
William Bundy
Mary Ann Crook
Jordon Fowler
Allen Harris
Wilmar Jennings
Julius Kolawole

Alfred Martin
Don Mays
Robert Sanders
Walter Stone
Allen Waters
Kasim Yarn

Advisory Committee:


Armeather Gibbs
Patrice Jean-Philippe
Keith Stokes


Theresa Guzmán Stokes - Managing Director
Jordan Fowler - Program Director

©2016 Rhode Island Black Heritage Society

Rhode Island Black Heritage Society is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. 110 Benevolent Street, Providence RI 02906

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