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African American Walking Tour of Newport

Putting African Americans BACK in to Newport, RI History

Although African Americans have been all but erased from the historical landscape, ongoing research is retelling their stories using documents such as The Newport Mercury, deeds, probate records, diaries, wills, birth and death records, church records, oral histories, and archaeological studies. In the 19th Century, West Broadway became an important African American neighborhood.

Many of us pass this area on a regular basis and are not aware of it’s history and success stories.

Sankofa Community Connection is actively working with community members, organizations and created a History & Culture Club after school program at the middle school co-facilitated by Dr. Akeia Benard Professor at Wheelock College &  Niko Merritt-Founder/ Executive Director of Sankofa Community Connection.

Our journey begins now...the past illuminates the present, let's re-learn together.


Walking Tour #1

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Word on the Streets of Newport, RI

My take away was that Newport has so many stories the need telling -- that do not necessarily involve the Gilded Age! Loved learning about Newport Gardner, and visiting his house/neighborhood on the narrow streets between Spring, Pope, and Thames -- learning about his productive life -- as an educator, religious leader, and musician. Very important to hear the stories of successful AA people woven throughout our streets and history. Perhaps the best testimonial is what you told me that young boy from your TMS history and culture class who said after he took the tour with you, to paraphrase --" now I feel like I belong here!" Can't get better a review/approval than that!

- Beth Cullen

My husband, daughter, and I walked the streets of Newport with you when we visited Bari last summer. What an incredible journey into the past you gave us...we didn't know how deeply the history of slavery was entwined in the life of the city. The memories that linger most are discovering the vibrancy of the African-American community and learning about the many successful black people who played such a big part in Newport's development.

Karen Palmer

Niko did an amazing job on walking tour of Newport's African American History. As a native Newporter and teacher in Newport Public Schools, this should be in our curriculum. We have so much living history within walking distance of our school. These cultural organizations, churches and museums are willing to share their collections, spaces and archives, etc with us. Our admin needs to make it a priority. Experiential learning should be the norm. Real experiences deepen understanding and engages students, ultimately our students become the stewards of these cultural gems. Thank you Niko!

Lisa Olaynack

The Walking Tour was great. It was nice to learn about Newport’s rich cultural history pertaining to African Americans and Black people and how the contributed to this community. I felt empowered and I believe it is important to not only share the importance our Black culture, but Newport’s history because it’s often talked about in a negative way. It was almost 2 years ago so I don’t exactly recall specifics but it helped shaped my views of Newport in realizing that my people had an impact here.

Amirah Nelson

I knew Newport was a slave port and it was built on the sweat and hard work of Blacks but I never knew how much positive contributions African Americans also had in the Newport community. I learned a great deal about slaves who fled slavery, built their own businesses and then helped free other slaves. Knowing how much influence African Americans actually had and still have in the Newport community is extremely important for people to know, especially since this information is not in textbooks. This rich history also serves as a testimony for the resiliency of African Americans. Despite being slaves, they still managed to build their community AND give back AND leave a legacy that without people like yourself, others would never know about, or would only know a white-washed version.

Wilmaris Ramos

The tour revealed the rich history of Newport that too often goes unrecognized. When I went, I was accompanied by numerous historic preservation professionals who were blown away by how intact many of the historic neighborhoods were, as well as the depth of knowledge of our guide (Niko).