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African American Providence

An Exhibit and Walking Tour

Christiana BannisterBethel AME (former site)George Downingpetition thumbnailView of the College Edifice

This exhibit and walking tour feature ten historic African American sites on Providence's College Hill.  It includes places where there is currently a building or marker to identify the spot, as well as places where there are no remaining traces of the site’s historic significance.  The primary focus is on the nineteenth century but African Americans have been a part of Providence history before and since that time.


This site highlights some historic sites in Providence's African American history.


Visit this page for a map of the tour route.

Bannister House

Bannister House - rusty gate

93 Benevolent Street

Edward and Christiana Bannister were a married couple of African American descent who lived in this house from 1884-1899.  Christiana was a successful businesswoman and Edward was an established artist.  Both were social activists and supporters of the arts.

University Hall

University Hall

45 Prosepect Street

For centuries, blacks have been a part of Brown University including helping construct University Hall, the oldest building on campus.

Providence Shelter for Colored Children

Providence Shelter for Colored Children
20 Olive Street
Founded in 1838 by Quaker Anna Almy Jenkins, the Providence Shelter for Colored Children is one of the city's oldest charitable organizations. From 1847-1951, it was located here.

Bethel AME Church

Bethel AME plaque

185 Meeting Street

The Bethel AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church was located here from 1866 until 1961. The church building no longer exists, but a marker denotes the site of the former church.

Congdon Street Baptist Church

Congdon Street Baptist Church

17 Congdon Street

Congdon Street Baptist Church is a historically black church dating from 1819. The current building, an Italianate structure, was completed in 1875.

Providence High School

providence high school for thumbnail

Intersection of Waterman, Angell, and Benefit Streets

In 1838, Providence built its first public high school but local school officials barred African Americans from enrolling until 1865. 

First Baptist Church

First Baptist plaque

75 North Main Street

Roger Williams established the congregation of the First Baptist Church in 1638. The current building dates from 1775. Until the construction of the African Union Meeting House in 1821, many African Americans also attended this church.

Old Brick School House

Old Brick School House

21 Meeting Street
In the mid-nineteenth century, the Old Brick School House was the site of both private and public schools for African American children.

Hardscrabble Riot

Hardscrabble thumbnail

Exact location is not known. Likely site is region west of Canal Street and between Memorial Boulevard and Smith Street.

Hardscrabble was the site of a race riot in 1824 when a white mob targeted and destroyed African American dwellings.

Snow Town Riot

100 dollars reward

Snow Town and Olney Street. Exact location of Snow Town is not known.

Providence experienced another race riot in 1831 in the neighborhood of Snow Town and along Olney’s Lane. 


This page lists some of the sources I used.


Do you have recommendations for historic African American sites to highlight in Providence or in the rest of Rhode Island? Leave your comments and suggestions here. Thanks for visiting!


Krystal Appiah