Public Humanities and Arts Projects

Legacies of American Slavery Public History Institute

A room of attendees at the Legacies of American Slavery Public History InstituteCo-Lab Faculty Director Elaine Stiles, Associate Professor of History Charlotte Carrington-Farmer, and Rhode Island Slave History Medallion Founder and Director Charles Roberts were selected to attend the Council of Independent Colleges’ Legacies of American Slavery Public History Institute at Yale University this past summer. The team’s project, which was workshopped at the institute with colleagues from around the country, considered ways to expand the scope of RISHM’s place-based storytelling and place-marking to illustrate the interconnectedness of the institution of slavery and the contributions of enslaved people to the cultural landscape of New England. The team’s proposed research and public engagement project addresses the invisibility of the legacies of slavery in our everyday lives and documents not just site-specific stories, as well as the landscape scale of these impacts. The vision is to integrate and expand RISHM’s existing work into an interactive, GIS-based application that will enable us to document both the granular and landscape-scale ways that enslaved people and their descendants “marked the landscape” with their labor, creativity, activism, and community practices. The project’s focus will be on spaces and places where Rhode Islanders engaged in, promoted, or fought enslavement and discrimination; that were built on the financial gains of slavery or Black oppression; and/or that reflect legacies of slavery today.

Underground Railroad History in Fall River, MA

Students present their research on the Underground RailroadRWU students Kristen Black (‘23) and TJ Ward (‘26) worked in partnership with The Preservation Society of Fall River to research and document the connections between the c. 1833 Dr. Isaac Fiske House and the Underground Railroad in Massachusetts. Guided by Associate Professor of History Dr. Charlotte Carrington-Farmer, the student researchers’ work was used to support the Preservation Society’s 2023 application for the Fiske House to be added to the National Park Service’s National Underground Network to Freedom. The full presentation is available on the Preservation Society’s YouTube Channel

Hidden Truths: Stories of Race and Place Lecture Series

Hidden Truths posterSince 2020, RWU’s Education, Scholarship, and Service Committee, a group of faculty and staff working in concert with RWU’s Equity Action Plan, have presented the “Hidden Truths: Stories of Race and Place” lecture series. The series features faculty and alumni’s research on untold  histories that complicate received knowledge and understandings with an emphasis on Indigenous questions, the slave trade, immigration, and the way these issues continue to impact societal and cultural realities and disparities today. The goal of the series is to engage the campus community and the public in deeper understandings and informed dialogues around racial justice and equity issues on local and global histories. Recorded lectures on subjects ranging from resisting the erasure of Indigenous lives in Rhode Island’s East Bay to the geographies of environmental justice in South America are available on the RWU YouTube channel.

Historical Perspective in US Asylum Hearings

Dr. Autumn Quezada-GrantSince 2017, Associate Professor of History Autumn Quezada-Grant has drawn on her twenty years of research in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Indigenous Guatemala, Mexico, and Peru to write “country conditions” reports in support of people seeking asylum in the United States. Quezada-Grant’s expertise in the treatment of women, LGBTQ populations, and indigenous people in these countries and the impact of gangs, drug cartels and organized crime have informed asylum cases for attorneys and immigration judges across the US. Her work provides scholarly perspective and historical contextualization of what asylum seekers have endured in their countries of origin and their fears of persecution, violence, or death if they return. Quezada-Grant has offered expert testimony in more than 200 asylum cases based on her research and on-the-ground knowledge.

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Providence Truth and Reconciliation Process

Cover of report for Providence Truth and Reconciliation ProcessRWU Assistant Professor of Writing Studies Brian Hendrickson is co-lead of a multidisciplinary team undertaking the second phase of the Providence Truth-Telling, Reconciliation and Reparations process, a multi-year initiative by the City of Providence to recognize past injustices and create a plan for repairing the harm these injustices caused for the city’s African heritage and Indigenous communities. Hendrickson and RWU partnered with the Providence Cultural Equity Initiative, the Providence Public Library, and the  Truth-Telling and Reconciliation subgroup of the African-American Ambassador Group  to conduct a community outreach process involving identifying stakeholders, conducting surveys and interviews to identify key areas of concerns, and developing a framework for future program activities. The partnership drew upon the “A Matter of Truth” report detailing Providence’s racial history to create a Truth-Telling & Reconciliation framework for the City of Providence released in 2022. The framework includes development of a website and digital interactive experience that tells the stories of African heritage and Indigenous community members today.

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Rhode Island Slave History Medallion Project Research

Students and faculty pose with their researchLed by RWU Associate Professor of History Charlotte Carrington-Farmer, undergraduate History students are working with the RISHM Project to research sites associated with enslaved peoples in Rhode Island in support of placement of Slave History Medallion markers. Students research topics such as the economic and social impact of slavery in the subject community, the involvement of the specific site and its historical owners/stewards in the slave trade and slavery, and biographical information on enslaved persons associated with the site or the community.  Dr. Carrington-Farmer and her students have researched the history of enslaved people connected to Linden Place in Bristol and presented their work the installation of a Slave History Medallion at Linden Place on Juneteenth (June 19) 2021.The project is continuing to partner with RISHM to research and install medallions in Barrington, Newport, Lincoln, Warren, and East Greenwich, Rhode Island.

Art, Poetry & Justice at Linden Place

Students and Professor stand together at eventProfessor of Art Elizabeth Duffy’s Spring 2022 senior seminar “Album to Zine: Books in Contemporary Culture,” presented broadsides and zines based on their own reflections of the history of Linden Place in Bristol, the preserved home of one of the largest slave trading families in the northeast. The event titled “Art, Poetry & Justice: Voices of the Past Reflected in the Voices of Tomorrow” was a partnership between Duffy, the Linden Place museum and the RWU Intercultural Center. The artworks and performances addressed topics such as social justice, systemic oppression, resiliency, hope, courage, empowerment, and healing.

Taking a STAND: Creating Community with Dance Against Domestic Violence

Student lays on ground as part of STAND performanceEvery October for the past eight years, Associate Professor of Dance & Performance Studies Cathy Nicoli and RWU dance students stage a public advocacy event where participants take one hour to move from a prone position to standing - a kinetic metaphor to honor victims of domestic violence in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In the past, STAND performances have partnered with Title IX offices, mental health advocates, domestic violence shelters, and the Silent Witness National Initiative — an initiative that acknowledges the names and stories of those who have lost their lives in domestic violence each year. Starting in 2021, Nicoli partnered with dance and performance programs at the University of Southern Mississippi (Hattiesburg) and the University of Vermont to bring the STAND event to other campuses. More about STAND can be found via Professor Nicoli’s and her collaborator Candice Salyer’s article in The Dancer-Citizen.

2020 STAND Performance