URI Feinstein Providence Campus Black History Program: Rhode Island's Involvement in the Slave Trade and Production of Textiles

Visible Cloth, Invisible Bodies:

Rhode Island Textiles and Southern Slavery in the 19th Century

January 16 – February 22 for Black History Month

This exhibit focuses on Rhode Island’s deep ties to slavery, from the transatlantic slave trade to the cotton that gave birth to the textile industry. Giving a face to the labor underlying the business of slavery, it includes images from historical archives that highlight the role the slave trade, enslaved labor and products of slavery played in Rhode Island’s economic boom in the 19th century.

The display features the work of Rhode Island artist Deborah Baronas, whose drawings and textile scrims allow the viewer to face these workers and sense their ghosts in our midst. Also making their labor tangible will be mature cotton plants the audience can touch. The exhibition will also include a loom from Slater Mill.

Along with the exhibition there will be two events:

Performances and Presentations Saturday, February 3rd from 1-5 p.m. We will have performances and talks by: Elon Cook, program director and museum curator of the Center for Reconciliation’s project on the history of slavery in Rhode Island and The Robbins House director; Dr.Joanne Pope-Melish, Associate Professor of History Emerita at the University of Kentucky; Sylvia Ann Soares, SAG-AFTRA, AEA, actor/writer/historian/activist portrays ‘Silvy Tory’ a freed RI South County slave.


Panel Discussion Thursday, February 8th from 6:30 – 9 p.m.  There will be a panel discussion with: Dr. Gregory O’Malley, Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and author of Final Passages: The Intercolonial Slave Trade of British North America 1619-1807; Dr. Seth Rockman, Associate Professor of history at Brown University, and author of the prize-winning monograph, Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore, and co-editor of Slavery’s Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development, a collection of cutting-edge essays on slavery and capitalism in the nineteenth century; and Christine Mitchell, an interpreter at the Charleston Slave Mart in Charleston, S.C. who travels extensively presenting living history talks on Charleston Slavery and cotton plantations.

Reception: Saturday, February 3rd after talks & presentations.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

URI Providence Campus, Paff Auditorium 80 Washington Street

Event Type

Exhibit, Special Event


President's Office, Urban Arts and Culture




Free and Open to the Public

Urban Arts and Culture
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