Arriving in Newport by the mid 1840’s, George T. Downing would become one of 19th century Newport’s most successful hospitality entrepreneurs.
A nationally recognized Abolitionist, Downing also lobbied tirelessly to officially desegregate Rhode Island public schools, beginning in 1857, by which time he was well-established in Newport as the proprietor of the Sea Girt House luxury hotel with confectionary and catering businesses on the Downing Block along historic Bellevue Avenue.
Downing would later lead the repeal of the state’s ban on interracial marriage, and racial discrimination in the reorganization of the Rhode Island militia. Downing helped purchased Touro Park and founded the American Colored Union Labor League.
This is part of an ongoing series by Keith W. Stokes, Lead Researcher for the NPS Grant - Civil Rights in 20th Century Rhode Island.