African Americans of Rhode Island

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This entry was originally written by Alice Eichholz, Ph.D., CG in Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

As part of the “Triangular Slave Trade” with the South and the Caribbean, Rhode Island’s economy was heavily reliant on slave trade. However, slavery waned in acceptance during the Revolutionary War. Despite the slave trade, Rhode Island had one of the first anti-slavery laws. Records of African Americans as both slaves and free citizens exist in abundance in Rhode Island, integrated in all varieties of public records. The Rhode Island State Archives has numerous collections that document the role of African-American soldiers in the Revolutionary War. Not much has been published, however. The Rhode Island Historical Society, in its large collection of manuscript material, has many records on African Americans.