28 Days of of Rhode Island African Heritage History

02 Mar 2019 3:51 PM | Theresa Guzman Stokes (Administrator)

February is over...but our history goes on.

Here are the 28 Days of African Heritage History as posted for Black History Month 2019 by Keith Stokes on Facebook.

 1 John Quamino - Born in 1744 at Anomabu along the Coast of Ghana. On November 22, 1774 Quamino along with Bristol Yamma of Newport became the first African men to attend college in America at what is today’s Princeton University. He signed on as a Privateer during the American Revolution and was killed at the Battle of Rhode Island. 
 2   Antony “Toney’ Taylor - He became a founding member of the first African heritage benevolent organization in America, the Free African Union Society in Newport, RI in 1780
 3   George Henry – A prosperous, Providence sea captain was a leader in the effort to integrate public schools in Rhode Island during the mid-19th century.
 4   Rev Alexander Crummell – In 1841 the pastor of Christ Church in Providence speaks before the People’ Party Convention during the Dorr Rebellion demanding the return of voting rights to African heritage men in Rhode Island.
 5   George T. Downing – One of the leading civil rights pioneers and business entrepreneurs of 19th century America. Owned many hospitality businesses in Newport and Providence and would lead efforts to integrate public schools and abolish anti-interracial marriage laws. 
 6   Rev Mahlon Van Horne – Pastor of the Union Congregational Church and fist man of color to be elected to a school board and General Assembly. Would later become a diplomat under President McKinley during the Spanish American War. 

Edward Mitchell Bannister – One of the leading painters of 19th century American and founder of Providence Art Club. 
    Christiana Carteaux Bannister – born in North Kingstown to African and Native Narragansett parents. She would become a leading Abolitionist and she founded the Home for Aged Colored Women in Providence that bears her name today as the Bannister House. 
 8   Dr. Marcus F. Wheatland - Licensed to practice medicine in Rhode Island in 1895, he is considered to be the first known African American physician to live and practice in Newport.  He became the first doctor in Newport to use the X-ray machine as a diagnostic tool.
 9   Mary H. Dickerson - Operated a “Fashionable Dressmaking Establishment” at 5 Travers Block in 1872 servicing the needs of Newport’s summer residents. Later she became a founder of the Women's Newport League and federation of African American Women’s Club in Rhode Island.
 10   John Hope – An early student of color to graduate from Brown University in 1894. He went on to become a President of Atlanta University and Morehouse University. 
 11   Dr.  Harriet A. Rice - Born in 1866 in Newport, she became the first African American to graduate from Wellesley College in 1887. Soon after she would earn a medical degree at the University of Michigan Medical School. During WWI, she would leave for France to serve as a physician in military hospitals.
 12   John C. Minkins – In 1919, he becomes Editor of the Providence Daily Evening News, the first African heritage editor of a white-owned newspaper. He is active member of NAACP and becomes a national lecturer on issues of race relations in America.
 13   Dr. M. Alonzo Van Horne –Born in Newport in 1871 he would graduate from Howard University Dental College in 1896 and became the first African American dentist in Rhode Island and Masonic leader. 
 14   J. D. Allen – One of Gilded Age Newport’s most accomplished business entrepreneurs, he established several restaurant and catering businesses including the HYGEIA SPA, at Easton’s Beach and Touro Dining Club. 
 15   Dr. William H. Higgins – He graduated with a medical degree from Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina with high honors specializing in gynecology. In 1911 Dr. Higgins was elected to the Republican City Committee representing the Seventh Ward of Providence, the first time that a person of color was so honored by the Republican Party.  
 16   Mary A. Jackson – An early founder of the Providence NAACP.  During WWI, she became an ardent worker in the Women’s Suffrage Movement and is appointed as “Special Field Worker” Among Colored Girls under the War Work Council for the YWCA.
 17   William A. Heathman – In 1898, Providence born Heathman becomes the first African American to be sworn in as an attorney in Rhode Island. He would later became a founder of the Providence NAACP and leading civil rights attorney.
 18   Roberta J. Dunbar – Born in Narragansett, she was president of the Northeastern Federation of Colored Women's Clubs and a founding officer of the Providence NAACP. 
 19   George S. Lima - A son of immigrants from Cape Verde, he was a lifelong political and labor leader in Rhode Island. He also proudly served his country during WWII as in the famed Tuskegee Army Air Corp. 

Joseph G.  LeCount – Admitted to the Rhode Island Bar in 1914, he was the leading civil rights attorney in 20th century Rhode Island championing fair labor practices, equal employment and fair housing.


George A. Wiley – A 1953 graduate of University of Rhode Island, he became one of the foremost state and national antipoverty and civil rights leaders, most notably the National Welfare Rights Organization.

 22   Fredrick C. Williamson – Born in Providence he became the first African American state department director with the Department of Community Affairs in 1969. That same year he became State Historic Preservation Officer.
 23   Rowena O. Stewart - Known as the “Mother of Black Museums,” she would found the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society in 1975 and became a national leader in African American history. 

Clifford R. Monteiro – A major champion of Civil Rights in Rhode Island and the nation. He was an organizer of the Rhode Island Chapter of CORE, President of the Providence Branch of the NAACP, Fair Housing advocate and the primary founder of the OIC of Rhode Island.

 25   Michael Van Leesten - Providence born Van Leesten became a champion of civil rights, an urban business entrepreneur, and leading founder and CEO of the OIC of Rhode Island.
 26    Eleanor L. Keys – A Newport native, she was instrumental in building a permanent monument for the First Black Rhode Island Regiment during the American Revolution. She was a lifelong member of the Women’s Newport League and also served as the President of the Newport Branch of the NAACP. 
 27   Paul L. Gaines – Newport born Gaines in 1981 became the first African heritage mayor in Rhode Island. He would also serve as a leader in equal opportunity education at the secondary and collegiate level. 
 28    Isadore Ramos – An East Providence icon, he is the former mayor of East Providence. He is also an educational leader serving as an Assistant Superintendent for the East Providence School Department and as a member of the East Providence School Committee. 

©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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