Tag: African Americans

Matilda Sissieretta (Joyner) Jones

Matilda Sissieretta (Joyner) Jones, an internationally acclaimed black opera singer, was born in Portsmouth, Virginia on January 5, 1868, the daughter of Jeremeah Joyner, a former slave and a minister, and Henrietta Beale Joyner, a homemaker, washerwoman, and singer in her church choir.  The couple had three children, but only Sissieretta survived childhood. At the

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Bertha G. Higgins

Bertha was born in Danville, VA on November 18, 1872 to Horace and Barbara Dillard. She was married twice, first to Walker Thomas in 1887, but following his death in 1897, she married Dr. William Higgins. In 1903 the couple moved to Providence, Rhode Island where Dr. Higgins practiced medicine. Bertha was an accomplished dressmaker

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Roberta J. Dunbar

Roberta Dunbar was born in Narragansett, Rhode Island on July 10, 1868 to John and Louisa Cartwright Dunbar. By 1870 the family was living in Providence and Roberta attended the English High school. She worked in a number of professions including dressmaker, masseuse and hairdresser but her work of note was as an activist dedicated

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John Carter Minkins

He was the first African American editor of a white newspaper. He was a renowned speaker and defender of human rights, attacking segregation and discrimination. John Carter Minkins came into this life on January 29, 1869 in Norfolk, Virginia. His mother died very young and he never met his white father. Raised by his grandmother, John was educated

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Reverend Mahlon Van Horne

Reverend Mahlon Van Horne (1840-1910) had a career that ranged from minister of the Gospel at the black Union Congregational Church at Newport to minister of diplomacy as United States Consul to St. Thomas in the West Indies. He was at heart always a teacher. Bom in Princeton New Jersey in 1840, Van Horne was

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Lloyd T. Griffin Jr.

Lloyd Griffin died on November 24, 1999, at the age of fifty nine. His memorial Mass on December 1 at Holy Rosary Church in his native Fox Point was well attended for an ordinary man; but Lloyd was not an ordinary man, and the church was far from over flowing. A few black community leaders

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Andrew J. Bell Jr.

Andrew J. Bell, Jr. was born in Providence in September 1907, the son of Andrew J. and Beatrice J. Bell.  After graduating from Classical High School, Bell studied Business Administration at Bryant College and graduated from the New England Institute of Mortuary Science in Boston.   In 1932, during the depths of the Great Depression,

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Fredrick Douglass “Fritz” Pollard

Frederick Douglass “Fritz” Pollard, 1894-1986, came from Lane Tech in Chicago and was known as a great running-back for Brown University in 1915 and 1916. As a freshman he started on the Brown squad that played in the first Rose Bowl game, becoming the first African American to play in the Rose Bowl. In 1916,

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Joseph Gomes

Joseph Gomes was the only Rhode Islander to play baseball in the Negro Major Baseball League, and was named an all-star in each of the seven years he played. He compiled a 362-41 pitching record, with a 1.74 earned-run-average in the Majors. He was an extraordinary athlete as a Rhode Island schoolboy all-stater in baseball,

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Dr. Raymond T. Jackson

Dr. Raymond T. Jackson, originally of Providence, is an accomplished concert pianist and graduate of the Julliard School of Music. Noted for bringing the music of African-American composers to the concert stage. He has compiled a three-volume anthology containing works by two dozen African-American composers dating back to the early 1800s. He has held positions

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William H. Matthews

William H. Matthews was the former First Deputy City Clerk of Providence, and considered by many as the finest athlete the state has produced. “Dixie”, as he was known to all, was considered by leaders of the city’s African-American community as their “first but unofficial” City Councilman. Born in Providence, he retired after thirty-eight years

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William D. & Olive F. Wiley

Mr. William (b. 1898) & Mrs. Olive F. Wiley (b.1903) were husband and wife for more than sixty years, many of which were devoted to their fellow man. William edited R.I.’s first African-American newspaper, the Providence Chronicle, for twenty years, while working full-time for the U.S. Postal Service. He was a co-founder and President of

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Fred Benson

Fred Benson devoted eight decades to Block Island, R.I., serving as police commissioner, fireman, and president of the chamber of commerce. Islanders continue to revel in sharing their cherished memories of the legendary jack-of-all trades for whom the town’s beach pavilion is named. Born in Boston on April 14, 1895, Benson was the son of

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Frederick C. Williamson Sr.

Frederick C. Williamson, Sr.,1915-2010, was State Director of the RI Department of Community Affairs and Rhode Island’s Historic Preservation Officer. He was instrumental in many of the state’s historic buildings and sites accepted for the National Historic Register. At the time of his death, in 2010, Frederick Williamson was the longest serving state historic preservation

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George A. Wiley

Warwick’s George Wiley (1931-1973) compiled a record of service to his country which equals the sacrifices and service of his fellow hometowners, Nathanael and Christopher Greene. Like those men of the Revolutionary War generation, George, too, became a champion of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Whereas the Greenes took direct military action against

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George S. Lima Sr

George S. Lima, Sr., the son of immigrants from Cape Verde, spent his adolescent years in Harlem, Fall River, and Providence with his Cape Verdean family. His life changed dramatically when he enrolled at North Carolina A&T State University in 1939 on a football scholarship. It was there he also learned to pilot planes. When

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James N. Williams

James N. Williams was the first and long-time Executive Director of the Urban League of Rhode Island and participated in the triumphs in the battle for racial equality in this nation. He also was active in many civic endeavors and served as a member of the state Advisory Council on Aging and other organizations which

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Matilda Sissieretta Jones

Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones (“Black Patti”) 1869-1933, was a famous concert singer of the 19th century. After becoming the the first African-American artist to perform at the Wallack’s Theatre in New York, she toured South America, Europe and Canada. Known as “the Black Patti,” after Italian diva Adelina Patti, Ms. Jones performed in Madison Square

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Edward Mitchell Bannister

Edward M. Bannister was a nationally famous painter during the 19th century. He was a self-taught pioneer among African-American artists, and won a national award during the U.S. centennial celebration, in 1876.

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Michel S. Van Leesten

MICHAEL S. VAN LEESTEN, of Providence, Executive Assistant to the Chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, is the former director of the Department of Planning and Development for the City of Providence, former director of the Opportunities Industrialization Center of Rhode Island, former chairman of the Rhode Island Housing and Mortgage Finance Corporation, and

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