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2019 marks 400 years of slavery in America.

Rhode Island was a major participant in this vicious episode of our history, and also a leader in abolishing it. 


Breaking Chains tells this story through lecture, concert & walking tour.


To all our sponsors, donors, & partners & the 550 participants for making "Breaking Chains"

a huge success! 

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Our Partners & Supporters:







Social Equality & Inclusion RISD

Providence City Archives

Office of the Chaplains & Religious Life 

Brown University

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Division of Diversity Equity & Inclusion

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Frey Florist

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Flowers by Semia

Breaking Chains

“The American slave trade might better be termed the

Rhode Island slave trade."

- Jay Coughtry, The Notorious Triangle

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Our Presenters

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Dr. David W. Blight

Pulitzer Prize-Winner

Dr. Marcus Nevius

URI History Profressor

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Dr. Joanne Pope Melish

Author: Disowning Slavery

Dennis Speed

Schiller Institute

Hon. Ray Rickman

Public Scholar



Mildred Nichols       Raymond A. Lambert, Jr.         Russell J. Ricci, MD William J. Trezvant Esq. Pamela Rawson                   Touba Ghadessi     The Gatewood Family       Steven Lubar                          Rich Medicke     Seth E. Rockman             Larry Wilson III                   Lease A. Plimpton

A Concert for Freedom


A Concert for Freedom: African American Spirituals


The interracial Schiller Institute Chorus is committed to performing African-American spirituals in keeping with the tradition of Hall Johnson, H.T. Burleigh and other Black composers


General Seating: $15

Limited Reserved Seating: $50 

Click below to purchase.

For additional information, call (401) 421-0606. 

Friday, June 14 at 5:30pm

Manning Chapel, 21 Prospect St.

Brown University Green

Providence, RI


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Frank Mathis

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Annicia Smith

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Michelle Erin


My-Hoa Stegner

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Malene Robinson

Listen to the Entire Concert

A Concert for Freedom 2019 Audio - Stages of Freedom
00:00 / 00:00

Recording by Morgan Ross


"The RI Slavery Tour was an experience we will not forget. The freshness of the morning, with the calm but unapologetic voice of Ray Rickman, set the pace of the day. We learned from the historian, but physically felt these old stories through the talented black and brown, youthful and wise actors. The most memorable moment was at the conclusion of the tour. It was while standing in a cemetery, we were invited into this sacred space. We had a moment to sit in silence and mourn, but it was not without purpose. The silence and mourning turned into hope—as the words were spoken, reminded each of us—regardless of our identities—that we share this history. It is all of ours. Most importantly, it is by remembering that we lift our heads to dream and work towards a better country. The entire event left us with feelings of celebration and resolve—we shall overcome." - Marquis Gatewood, Dean, Brown University

A Living History Walking Tour of Slavery & Abolition in Rhode Island

Led by Ray Rickman, the foremost authority on Providence African America life, this groundbreaking walking tour of the East side features seven sites, reenactments, and unique, interactive activities which provide an extraordinary window into slavery and abolitionism in Rhode Island.

Experience bondage, escape, manumission, everyday life, burial, and the campaign for freedom. See Gov. Hopkins' slave, Fibbo, at work in the yard; hear Rev. Crummell's stirring appeal to the Free Suffrage Convention; visit the Chace Sisters' grave site; and more.


This landmark tour is limited to the first 50 registrants. 

Saturday, June 15 at 9:45am

Walking Tour originates at 

Stages of Freedom

10 Westminster Street



Tickets are $18 per person.

For additional information, call (401) 421-0606 

We suggest participants wear comfortable walking shoes and bring bottled water. Free parking on College Street in the lot behind Brown University's Rockefeller Library.

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On Friday, June 14, 2019, the Schiller Institute Boston Community Chorus teamed up with Stages of Freedom, which hosted the event, for an evening of history through music. Stages of Freedom is an organization dedicated to providing young African-Americans access to swimming programs, cultural programming, and educating inner-city youth by providing access to museums and live performance. Historians and Stages of Freedom founders, Robb Dimmick and Ray Rickman planned this concert at Manning Chapel (Brown University) specifically because of the role the Brown family played the slave trade.

By the time the concert began at 5:30pm, there was a sold-out audience of over 200 people.

Mr. Rickman opened the event by challenging the audience to not think of this event as “entertainment, but to improve your soul and spirit.” This, preceded by a stirring rendition of “I’ve been buked” by Hall Johnson, performed by the chorus a capella, set the tone for the entire event.

The concert featured the Schiller Boston Community chorus and soloists singing Spirituals and was carefully and dramatically orchestrated to portray the horrors of the Rhode Island slave trade and its gradual abolition through readings taken from The Notorious Triangle by Jay Coughtry and Disowning Slavery by Joanne Pope Melish.  The unique and necessary participation of the chorus' dramatic performances of five Spirituals, a Mozart choral piece, soprano Michelle Erin's performance of Hall Johnson’s “Give Me Jesus,” baritone, Frank Mathis' “Goin’ Home” and excerpts from Roland Hayes “Life of Christ;” and soprano, Annicia Smith’s moving rendition of “Deep River,” were punctuated by the remarks of invited guest, Northeast Coordinator of the Schiller Institute, Dennis Speed.  All the pieces were skillfully and beautifully accompanied by pianist, My-Hoa Steger.  At the conclusion of the 90-minute concert, the chorus led the audience in “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as they processed outside the beautiful chapel to a receiving line on the green.

Many in the audience had never heard Spirituals sung in such an honest and dramatic way.  Some people were visibly shocked when Dennis Speed said in his speech, that African-American Spirituals are Classical music.  While this event was intended to shock people and create discomfort in facing the history of slavery, the role of the uplifting and never-enraged Spirituals played the crucial role in carrying out the mission of Friedrich Schiller and the Schiller Institute; it provoked the audience to be better people and to respond in an impassioned way.  There is tremendous potential coming out of this concert, including a professional recording which will be sent out to thousands of people and future collaborators.

– Jen Pearl, Conductor, Schiller Boston Community Chorus -

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