Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Episcopal Diocese Reckons With Rhode Island's Slaving Past

From Rhode Island-

From the “Welcome to Bristol” sign at the town line, and along Hope Street’s red-white-and-blue stripe to the postcard-perfect Federal-style homes at its center, Bristol wears its Colonial past proudly. But one September evening, about forty Bristolians gathered in St. Michael’s Episcopal Church to talk about a past the town is not so eager to tell — the great crime that built Bristol: slavery.

Slavery was the economic lifeblood of the entire state for eighty years. Rhode Island passed its first law forbidding enslavement in 1652, but the law changed and the practice flourished apace with its profitability. From before the American Revolution to the Industrial Revolution, the slave trade powered Rhode Island’s rum distilleries and the textile mills, spinning cotton picked by Southern slaves into cheap “negro cloth” that was sold back to the South. Slavery employed the carpenters, the clerks, the bankers and the blacksmiths. Everyone made money from the slave trade, but few made more than the DeWolf family of Bristol.

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