This Report from the Field is a post-mortem reflection on a statewide memorialization project on slavery that ultimately failed. In this essay, I attribute the failure of the project in large part to conflicting historical approaches and claims to narrative authority over the representation of a specifically Rhode Island image of slavery. Although the organization studied here no longer exists, other nascent grassroots organizations dedicated to the memorialization of slavery and grappling with issues of emerging narratives and competing claims to local memory may derive benefit from my analysis and the proposed “scaffolded conversations” with which I conclude.
From Cape Verde to Newport: A Failed Attempt to Memorialize a Specifically Rhode Island History of Slavery
Karen de Bruin is an associate professor of French at the University of Rhode Island. Her current research focuses on memorialization attempts by French Huguenot descendants in the Cape Colony (South Africa) and how these attempts contributed to the construction of a myth of the Huguenot that was ultimately appropriated by Afrikaner culture. For two years, she served on the Coordination Committee of the Rhode Island Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Marker project and co-produced multiple speaker series and art exhibits. She currently serves on the Committee for the Study of Slavery in Rhode Island at the University of Rhode Island.
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Karen de Bruin; From Cape Verde to Newport: A Failed Attempt to Memorialize a Specifically Rhode Island History of Slavery. The Public Historian 1 August 2021; 43 (3): 42–54. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2021.43.3.42
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