Brown University announced plans yesterday to build a memorial to commemorate Brown’s historic connections to the slave trade, possibly in Bristol or neighboring Newport, Rhode Island.

The announcement was made by the university’s Commission on Memorials, and is part of Brown’s effort to implement the recommendations of a 2006 report by the Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice.


Rhode Island, of course, was the heart of the American slave trade. Rhode Island merchants, most prominently James D’Wolf and his family, sent out a thousand slaving voyages, more than half of those sent out from the entire country, and brought more than 110,000 enslaved Africans to the New World.

The town of Bristol was the home of the DeWolf family and the most active center of Rhode Island slave trading. Together with neighboring Newport, the two towns sent out at least 823 slaving voyages. Providence, by contrast, sent out less than a tenth of that number.

Brown University, for its part, was financed in part with donations from John and Moses Brown, who were the most prominent Providence slave traders, as well as other Rhode Island slave traders and southern plantation owners. Slaves also helped to construct the first building on the campus, now known as University Hall.

The commission’s recommendations

The Commission on Memorials has made a total of six recommendations, one of which is for the physical memorial. The commission made no recommendation for a location for the memorial’s site, but identified Providence, Bristol, and Newport as locations to be considered.

Other recommendations from the commission include having Brown teach about the state’s slave trading, both in the university and in local public schools; supporting research on the subject with a prize; a memorial to honor Native American heritage; and lectures and other events to encourage the community to acknowledge local participation in slavery and similar history elsewhere.

Brown had earlier agreed to establish a $10 million Fund for the Education of the Children of Providence, an endowment for the public schools of Providence.

In response to the announcement, Richard Lobban, a professor of African studies at the Naval War College in Newport, was quoted in the Providence Journal as saying, “It’s great news–even if it’s 200 years late.”

Hat tip: NativityOasis Weblog.

One Response to “Brown University to erect slave trade memorial”

  1. southern plantations says:

    The old adage about those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it applies. We must remember the past as we move forward.

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