Rhode Island and the Slave Trade - DOC - DOC

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					        Curriculum Guide to

 Unrighteous Traffick
Slavery in Rhode Island

        Providence Journal series by
          Staff Writer Paul Davis

 Curriculum guide by Avis Gunther-Rosenberg
    Newspaper In Education Coordinator
           The Providence Journal

                            Rhode Island and the Slave Trade

Discussion questions and activities:
Why do you suppose captains named their boats Endeavor, Success and Wheel of
Fortune? What do those words mean? What about a slave ship equates with fortune or
success? Who would be profiting?

Rhode Island accounted for more than half of New England’s slave traffic between 1725
and 1807. Using your history books, the library or the Internet, research what other
events were going on in the world during that time period. What was happening in Rhode
Island at the time? How old was the colony and what was its full name? Make a time line
that includes the first stirrings of the American Revolution and our early presidents.

In 1755, 11.5 percent of all Rhode Islanders, or about 4,700 people were black. From that
figure, compute how many people were living in Rhode Island. How many people live in
the state today? What percentage of the current population is black? (Refer to the U.S.
Census Bureau site.)

Historians refer to the international slave trade as the “first global economy.” Define a
global economy. What is an example of a global economy today? How would the slave
trade have fit that definition?

Distilleries – establishments for distilling alcoholic beverages; distilling is the process of
purifying a liquid by boiling it and condensing its vapors.
Dissidents – people who disagree with established opinions or beliefs, dissenters.
Piracy – robbery at sea.
Plantations – large farms or settlements.
Privateering – ships privately owned and operated but authorized by the government to
attack enemy ships during wartime.
Sloop – a sailboat with a single mast.
Uprisings – revolts; rebellions.
Wharves – piers; landing places for ships.

        Buying and Selling the Human Species: Newport and the Slave Trade

Discussion questions and activities:
Pollipus Hammond “had been a pillar of the congregation, a sober churchgoer for nearly
34 years. A boat builder, mechanic and father of five, Hammond could have turned his
hand to anything,” yet he “turned his hand to the slave trade.” If you were to judge
Hammond’s character, what adjectives would you use to describe him? Would you judge
him favorably? Discuss what constitutes a good person. Can someone be good, but be

involved in things that hurt others? Search through the Providence Journal for examples
of individuals that may be good people but have done bad things.

Hold a mock trial for Hammond. Students can take the role of the defendant or the state,
the respective attorneys, the judge, the jury and witnesses.

Pretend you are reporters covering Hammond’s death. Who would you interview to get
the story of his life? What questions would you ask?

Find the Guinea Coast on a world map. Plot a course to Rhode Island.

Do you think Hammond regretted his life as a slave captain? Why or why not? Write a
persuasive essay convincing others of your opinions. Back them up with facts from the
story. Hold a press conference. Invite “the ghost of Hammond” to interview

Write an obituary for Hammond, using the Journal obituary style as a guide. Create a
timetable of his life, sequencing what happened first, next, last . . .

Aaron Lopez wrote, “Convert your cargo to good Slaves.” What do you think he meant
by that? Lopez was a religious man and referred to God in his note. How do you think he
justified slavery? How do you feel about that?

How was sugar cane involved in the slave trade? Discuss the process of converting sugar
and molasses to rum. Point out the “triangle” of the triangle trade on a world map.

Describe the life of a captain on a slave ship. Write a journal entry that a captain may
have written in the mid 1700s.

What illnesses plagued those on the slave ships who journeyed to Africa? Research their
causes, symptoms and cures. Are these illnesses still a danger today? Why or why not? If
so, where? Find references to 21st century illnesses in The Providence Journal. What
illnesses currently have no cures? What can we do to prevent illnesses today?

Write a poem about “the lure of the sea.”

Describe the relationship between Reverend Stiles and Hammond. How were they similar
and how did they differ? How did Rev. Stiles spend a typical day?

How were Newport and New Haven different in the mid 1700s?

What principles was Newport founded on?

How would Phyllis’ obituary different from Hammond’s or Stile’s?

Stiles kept a diary, which is one way reporter Paul Davis was able to write this newspaper
story, two centuries after Stile’s death. What do you think Stiles would say if he could
read the story today? How would you want to be remembered in 200 years? Take a stab
at writing your own obituary, the way you would want it to read. Or pair up and interview
classmates. Pretend that it is the year 2076. What have you accomplished in your

Write a short story that takes place in the city of Newport and includes the man named

Booming – flourishing; growing rapidly.
Brigs – sailboats with two masts.
Chafed – annoyed; vexed.
Claret – a dry red wine.
Congregationalist – a denomination of the Protestant church.
Exports – merchandise sent abroad for trade; the opposite of imports.
Ferrying – transporting people or goods across a body of water.
Laborious – hard; difficult work.
Longboat – the longest boat carried by a merchant ship.
Mackerel – a variety of fish.
Mauled – roughly attacked.
Pillar – someone who occupies a respected position.
Potent – strong.
Puritan – a group of English Protestants with strict religious beliefs and practices.
Quaker – a member of the Religious Society of Friends.
Teemed – swarming with; full of.

               Abraham Redwood; Antigua and the West Indies Trade

Discussion questions and activities:
Find Antigua and Barbados on a world map. Look for Holland (where the Dutch traders
originated), London, and Virginia.

Examine the following quote: “The most efficient use of a slave was to wear him out in
seven years and get a new one.” In your own words, restate what historian Forbes said. In
2006, technology has become so cheap that it is often more cost-effective to throw out a
cell phone or keyboard and buy a new one than to fix the old one. How does this concept
of “disposable technology” relate to what Forbes said was happening on the sugar-cane

Look up the word “dignity” in the dictionary (or in the glossary below). The Redwoods
had “wealth, dignity and opportunity,” historian Bolhouse says. Do you agree with the
use of the term “dignity”?

Look up the term “burden.” What do you think of having to “buy Negroes” as a “one of
the greatest burdens of our lives?”

If the black population outnumbered whites by 10 to 1 on Antigua, how did the whites
maintain power over the blacks? How and why did they use torture? Is it ever okay to
torture someone? Research where torture is still used today to maintain control. Search

The Providence Journal for stories that show differences in classes. Do we have different
class structures here? What evidence did you find to support that? Look for stories from
other countries about differences in the way people of different ethnic groups, races or
cultures are treated. Create a poster or bulletin board.

Search for stories and photos of blacks today who are in the news. Look for famous
political figures, teachers, entertainers, sports figures, etc. who are African American.

Redwood communicated with his business agent David Cheseborough and his wife
Martha in a day long before the invention of text messages, email, telephones and even
telegraphs. Research methods of communication in the 1700s. How long would it have
taken Martha to get a note to her husband? How would it have been sent?

Redwood’s list of assets included Sampson, Abby, Jenny, Charles followed by six mules,
three stallions, 14 cows and 30 working oxen. What can you deduce from that statement?

Anglican – member of the Church of England.
Burden – a weight of responsibility.
Conch – a kind of shellfish.
Dignity – worthy of respect.
Disowned – refused to acknowledge as one of theirs.
Drought – severe water shortage.
Erudite – educated; learned.
Irrigation – a method of supplying water to dry land through streams, pipes, etc.
Martial law --temporary rule by the military, imposed on a civilian population especially
in time of war or when civil authority has broken down.
Stout – overweight.
Toiled – worked.
Unsavory – distasteful; disagreeable.

                 An Education at Sea: Farm Boys and the Slave Trade

Discussion questions and activities:
Describe a typical slave ship seaman. How old was he? What was his background? Why
would he have left his home to go to sea.

The year is 1803. You are a Rhode Island teenager talking to your best friend who tells
you that they have just signed up for a voyage. They tell you they are leaving in the
morning, and swear you to secrecy. They plan on writing their parents a note and leaving
it on their pillow to find. What would you do? Would you keep their secret? What advice
would you give?

Teenagers in the early 1800s were in many ways like teenagers today. They wanted
freedom from their parents’ ways; they wanted to make their own decisions; they long to
grow up and they longed for adventure. How would a 14 year old rebel today? Which is
era do you think offers more dangers? What do you think teenagers will be like 200 years
in the future?

On the African coast, slaves were imprisoned in stockades inaptly named “castles.” Why
do you think they were called that?

Shipboard, slaves were crowded into spaces of 3 ½ feet square. Using a yard stick and a
ruler, measure off 3 ½ feet square on the floor and mark it off with masking tape. Stand,
sit and try to lie down on your space. Do you have enough room to move? What do you
think it would be like to live in this space for weeks?

Preston describes the slave trade as “the greatest educator Rhode Island ever had.” What
do you think Preston means by: Even if the young man returned to the farm, “his whole
outlook on life would be changed?”

Cooper – a barrel maker.
Dickered – bargained.
Fetid – having a raunchy, offensive odor.
Mangroves – tropical trees.
Mercantile – referring to merchants.
Squalid – dirty, poor, uncared for.

                              Newport Slave Traders: A List

Discussion questions and activities:
Compare the rankings of the slave-owning members of the top 50 wealthiest taxpayers in
Newport in 1772. Who owned the most slaves in 1774? What percentage of the top 50
taxpayers did not own slaves? What percentage were former slave captains? Does
ranking on the list correlate to number of slaves, i.e., do the wealthiest on the list own the
most slaves? Do you think that owning slaves was a status symbol?

                  Plantations in the North: The Narragansett Planters

Discussion questions and activities:

After reading the material, ask students what made South County unique in New
England. What happened to the Narragansett Indian tribe?

Ask, what does it mean to buy on credit? What are modern day examples of this?
Ask students to describe Southern Rhode Island today. What has changed? Has anything
stayed the same? Study the chief industries in R.I. today. How many working farms are in

Describe what Aaron Lopez saw outside his office window. Sketch the view.

What was life like before the American Revolution for the social elite in southern Rhode
Island? Compare dressing for a party today to a similar event in the 1700s. Draw or paint
a scene at a corn husking festival.

How did life change in southern Rhode Island during the Revolutionary War? Create a
journal entry from the point of view of a person your age living in Newport or
Narragansett in 1776.

Cherubs – small winged angels with the chubby faces of children.
Counting house – a place where a business does its accounting and bookkeeping.
Dejected – sad; disheartened.
Fretted – worried.
Gentry – upper class; of “good” breeding.
Glutted – filled beyond capacity.
Imperious – arrogant and domineering.
Indentured – legally bound into service.
Luxuriate – to indulge oneself.
Monied – possessing wealth.
Pilasters – an ornamental column.
Pretensions – pretexts; overt displays.
Savvy – well informed.
Stratification – arrangement of layers.
Threshing – a process of separating seeds and grain by beating them.
Tropics – the area of the world located between the two parallels of latitude (23°27 north
and 23°27 south) representing the points farthest north and south at which the sun can
shine directly overhead.

               No Simple Truth: The Rev. McSparran and His Slaves

Discussion questions and activities:
McSparran beat one of his slaves until he “begged” and later placed him in a metal collar.
How does this contrast with the emotion he felt when another slave drowned? Was
McSparran a caring master? Do you believe someone can be caring and own another

Runaway slaves were often described by their scars in newspaper ads, in much the same
way we might take out an ad for a runaway dog today. Go to the library and find archived
copies of old newspapers Can you find examples of ads for runaway slaves? What other
things do you notice about old newspapers that are different than newspapers today?

Delude-Dix says, “History is not something that occurred a long time ago. It has an
impact on our world today.” Philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who
cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Choose one of these two
statements and write an essay on how it relates to learning about slavery in Rhode Island.

Chattel – personal property; slaves.

                    Strangers in a Strange Land: Newport’s Slaves

Discussion questions and activities:
Locate Ghana and Sierra Leone on a world map. Research Ghana and Sierra Leone in the
library or on the Internet. What are the chief crops? How are they governed today?
Describe the climate and the landscape.

Pompe wanted the world to know that he and his brother Cuffe were human beings. How
did he attempt to do that? Do you think his simple act accomplished that? Why or why
not? Are there other ways Pompe Gibbs could have achieved his goal?

How many Newport residents owned laves in the 1710s? What three colonial cities had
the largest percentage of slaves? Describe the makeup of the workforce in Newport by
the mid-18th century.

What happened to slaves from the time they were taken from Africa through their lives in
New England? Sequence the locations and events. How was the daily life a slave child
different from the life of a free child? In what ways, if any, was it similar?

Compare and contrast life as a slave in New England to life as a slave in the South.

What do you think the purpose of the slave elections was? And why do you think it was
supported by their white masters?

It’s ironic that Rhode Island colonists were fighting for liberty from Great Britain and
condemning tyranny while at the same time upholding their own right to keep slaves. Can
you find other instances throughout history, or even in the present, where a group who
has been oppressed oppresses another group? Is it fair to compare the financial
domination of the colonists with their ownership of African slaves? Why or why not.
Pretend that it is 1765. Write a letter to the editor arguing your views.

In 1784, the General Assembly passed the Negro Emancipation Act freeing all children
of slaves born after Mar 1, 1784. Boys were freed at age 21 and girls at age 18. Write a
poem describing what emancipation might have felt like to a young person born into

Breeches – old-fashioned trousers that ended at the knee.
Effigy – a crude image of a person.
Emancipation – setting free.
Gouging – scratching a groove in.
Hawked – sold by calling out to passersby on the street.
Masonry – the art of building with stone or brick.
Mulatto – person of mixed black and white ancestry.
Snuff – pulverized tobacco that is inhaled through the nose.
Surname – family name; last name.
Twine – strong twisted thread; string.

                           Saving the Past: God’s Little Acre

Discussion questions and activities:
Stokes’ father taught her that “if they know your name, you’re immortal.” What do you
think he meant by that? How do you think his teaching led Stokes to become involved in
preserving the cemetery?

Stokes says that “Slavery is always going to be such a negative issue that it’s hard to talk
about.” Why do you suppose it is important to talk about it anyway?

                                  1 Boye Slave Dyed
                            The Terrible Voyage of the Sally

Discussion questions and activities:
The crew of the Sally included one free black sailor. Document the voyage from his point
of view.

Draw a family tree for the Brown family. What was each family member’s stand on or
relationship to the slave trade?

Research the political climate and customs in West Africa in 1754. We know what was
happening in the colonies regarding the slave trade, but what was going on in Africa?
How was King Fodolgo Talko able to barter humans for tobacco, rum and sugar?

Blunderbusses – short muskets.
Cordage – cords or rope used in ship building.
Currency – money.

Cutlasses – heavy swords with curved blades.
Debacle – fiasco; disaster.
Deterred – discouraged.
Emaciated – underfed to the point of being alarmingly thin.
Gruel – a thin porridge.
Helmed – controlled the ship.
Highwaymen – men who robbed travelers on the road.
Hogsheads – a liquid measure equal to 63 gallons.
Foundry – a factory that makes metal castings.
Malarial – infected with malaria.
Quarter deck – part of the upper deck of a ship.
Shackled – bound in chains.
Swivel guns – small cannon mounted on the side of a boat.

                                  Slave Revolts at Sea

Discussion questions and activities:
Approximately one in every 10 slave voyages resulted in an uprisings including The
Little George and The Sally. What does that tell you about the desires of the slaves?

            Brown vs. Brown: The Bitter Fight to Outlaw the Slave Trade

Discussion questions and activities:
Write a fictional account of a holiday dinner at the Brown’s household. What was
conversation like between John and Moses Brown?

John Brown wrote that Africans were better off as slaves in America because they would
have been killed back home. Moses Brown disagreed stating that it would be an even
greater act of humanity to grant the slaves their freedom in this country. Stage a debate
between the two brothers. Be prepared to argue both sides with facts as well as opinions.

Moses Brown joined Samuel Slater to make cloth at Slater’s Pawtucket mill. The cloth
was made from cotton picked by slaves in the South. Does that change the way you feel
about Moses Brown? Why or why not?

Abolition – the process of abolishing slavery.
Abominable – detestable; loathsome.
Diatribe – a bitter verbal or written attack.
Loophole – an omission or ambiguity in a contract that allows you to escape the
agreement or law.
Magnate – a powerful and influential person in industry.
Pig iron – crude iron cast in blocks.
Relinquished – abandoned.

Staid – straight-laced; somber.

                     Living Off the Trade: Bristol and the DeWolfs

Discussion questions and activities:
Were the eight men who pushed Bosworth into a sailboat and kept him from purchasing
The Lucy Indian? How did you come to your conclusion?

After the American Revolution, which Rhode Island town replaced Newport as the
busiest slave port?

Write a biography of James DeWolf. What sort of picture do you paint of his life?
Describe his early days, how he gained his wealth, his brushes with the legal system and
his politics.

Auction – a public sale in which items are sold to the highest bidder.
Corinthian columns – the most ornate of the Greek columns in architecture.
Customs – taxes paid for imported goods.
Garb – clothing; costume.
Flaunted – scorned; showed contempt for.
Instigation – urging.
Jettisoned – cast overboard.
Prying -- to constantly question the affairs of others; overly inquisitive.
Surveyor – engineer who determines where property lines lie.
Treason – betrayal of one’s country.
Turf – land.
Zealous – fervent; avidly involved or interested in.

                   Slave Traders in the Family: Probing a Dark Past

Discussion questions and activities:
How did Browne first begin to confront her family’s past? How would you react if you
were Browne? Are we responsible for the acts of our ancestors? Why is it important for
Browne to pursue this story?

Is this a story of angels and devils? Is this a story of North and South?

                                  Additional Curriculum

Continue to follow this series online at www.projo.com/slavery where you’ll find writer
Paul Davis’ narration of the story, additional in-depth interviews with experts, more
visuals, music and an online quiz.