Salve Receives Grant to Digitize 18th Century Slavery Documents

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The Rhode Island Foundation has awarded Salve Regina University a $750 grant from the Joseph O’Neill Ott Fund to support the creation of a digital collection of eighteenth-century documents related to slavery. The project, Documenting Slavery in South Kingstown’s Colonial Records, will describe each page of several years of probate records digitized from the South Kingstown Town Records office. Each image and its description will be available through Salve Regina’s digital collections in JStor Forum.

The records include probate and town council records dated 1704-1742, a rich corpus of wills, probate inventories, and town council decrees, all of which provide evidence addressing how slavery was conceived of, recorded, and carried out in colonial Rhode Island.

The presence and practice of slavery in New England in the 1700s is often left undiscussed in history classes and in museums. Rhode Island in particular was the central hub of finance for the slave trade. Enslaved people lived, worked, and died in the region, working in large-scale farms, known as the Narragansett Plantations, as well as the homes of traders and artisans in the urban centers of Newport and Providence. This project affords the opportunity to preserve vital information addressing slavery in Rhode Island.

This project emerged from collaborations between faculty members Dr. Jon Marcoux in Cultural and Historic Preservation and Dr. Emily Colbert Cairns in Modern and Classical Languages, who have taught a University Seminar using these primary sources. University Archivist and Special Collections Librarian Genna Duplisea will provide the technical guidance for the project.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised $38 million and awarded $43 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities in 2017. Through leadership, fundraising and grantmaking activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential. For more information, visit www.rifoundation.org.

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