New walking tour shows early black history of Providence


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A new self-guided walking tour takes visitors through the city of Providence to see locations where black Rhode Islanders of the 17th and 19th centuries played a role in the city’s history.

The Providence Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau developed the “Early Black History Tour” with The Center for Reconciliation, historical museum and youth activity organization Stages of Freedom, and the Rhode Island Historical Society, and it was unveiled Thursday morning at the Center for Reconciliation. It’s the fifth self-guided tour in PWCVB’s series, “Providence Walks.”

The tour is available in free handouts from the Bureau’s visitor centers and online at

Read and Walk the Early Black History Tour »

The landmarks start near the State House and the walk travels up Main Street all the way to the Fox Point neighborhood, showing former school buildings, the oldest continually operating black church in Providence (Congdon Street Baptist Church), and homes where people were enslaved, as well as the site of Snowtown, a neighborhood where emancipated and freeborn black Rhode Islanders lived — which was replaced by the Rhode Island State House, built in 1895.

The tour puts Providence on equal footing with a dozen other cities and states that have promoted the history of black people in their communities, according to Stages of Freedom executive director Ray Rickman.

“We expect this will make Providence a destination for thousands seeking to enrich themselves with this magnificent early history,” he said.

Mayor Jorge Elorza expressed gratitude for the research that went into the tour.

“I believe that mankind is made better when we afford ourselves the opportunity to publicly reflect on our shared history, including moments of shame,” Elorza said.

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