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Rhode Island Slave History Medallion Installation Ceremony

On Thursday, July 23rd, the unveiling of the first Rhode Island Slave History Medallion(RISHM) in Newport took place on Bowen’s Wharf. The bronze medallion was installed on the old Stevens Ship Chandlery building (now The Sail Loft), which is registered with the Library of Congress’s Historic American Buildings Survey and dates back to 1783. Equipped with QR code technology, the plaque helps inform and educate the wharf’s visitors and guests on the significant role that the Newport waterfront played in this important era of American history. 

The QR code links directly to the organization’s website ( and a summary of the historic research that was done relative to slavery and the wharf. The Board of RISHM has found that without a foundation in history, it is difficult, if not impossible, to grasp the impact the institution of slavery has on our society today.

In the 18th century, the city of Newport was a major hub of the North American slave trade, and in the area now known as Bowen’s Wharf, the enslaved labored in the maritime trades and were transported in sailing ships as the basis for importing rum from the West Indies. Newport played an integral part in this “triangle trade”, where Rhode Island-made rum was exchanged for slaves in Africa, who were then sold in the south to work on plantations.

The recognition and support that was provided made this installation ceremony a day truly worth remembering.  Bowen’s Wharf would like to thank Charles Roberts of RISHM  who started the statewide public awareness program committed to marking historic sites connected to the business of slavery in Rhode Island. We appreciate your program and all the contributions you bring to this state. We’d also like to thank all of the speakers at the ceremony, including RI Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee, RI Director of Tourism Mark Brodeur, Discover Newport Executive Director Evan Smith, Bart Dunbar of Bowen’s Wharf Company, RISHM Executive Director Charles Roberts, and local members of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Read more about the presence of slavery and the slave trade on Bowen’s Wharf at

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