Hardscrabble was a predominantly African American neighborhood located in northwestern Providence during the early nineteenth century. In 1824, the area was the site of a race riot in which whites targeted and destroyed the homes of several black residences. The riot was a violent manifestaton of the racial tensions between Providence's underclasses. Today, the State Capital overlooks the former site of Hardscrabble.
A distance from the center of town, the cheap rent attracted respectable working-class blacks as well as unsavory characters of all races. Respectable but poor residents lived next-door to houses of vice. Tensions grew between the residents of Hardscrabble and other residents of Providence.
On October 18, 1824, a white mob attacked black residences in Hardscrabble. The apparent trigger was the refusal of some blacks to get off the sidewalk when approached by a group of whites in Hardscrabble earlier in the day. Although the mob claimed to be ridding the town of places of ill-repute, they destroyed buildings indiscriminately, regardless of whether it was the home of an innocent black resident or a site of criminal activity. The mob tore down approximately twenty houses. As detailed in the Hardscrabble Calendar, four people were brought to trial but only one found guilty.
Historians dispute the exact location of the riots; based on contemporary sources, it likely took place in the vicinity west of Canal Street and between Memorial Boulevard and Smith Street. How important is it to know the exact location?