On Saturday, October 10th , 2020 the Rhode Island Slave History Medallions (RISHM) installed a Slave History Medallion on the grounds of Smith’s Castle, hosted in partnership with the Smith’s Castle’s Education Committee.
This dedication featured remarks by RISHM director Charles Roberts as well as Smith’s Castle Vice-President and Education Committee chairperson Robert A. Geake. Members of the education committee read brief biographies about some of the enslaved people of color who were part of this history. Loren Spears of the Tomaquag Museum blessed the land in the original Narragansett language and members of the Mixed Magic Gospel Exult Choir performed a number of spiritual tributes. To round out the celebration, members of the Rhode Island First Black Regiment honored the enslaved Patriots with a musket salute.
The Installation Ceremony was presented to acknowledge the enslaved laborers who lived, worked and died on the property over the course of 150 years. Roger Williams built a trading post on this site in 1637 to trade with the Narragansetts after receiving the land from the tribe. Slaves were then brought to the Castle from the Caribbean by Richard Smith Jr. in the 1650’s and continued to be accrued during the plantation era, serving the Updike family until their relinquishment of the property in 1812. A large slave burial ground was found on this property. It held up to 200 graves by the close of the 18th century.
This program was made possible by the generous donations of the RI Slave History Medallions organization, the friends of Smith’s Castle and Preserve RI.
RI Slave History Medallions tell the stories of Rhode Island's role in the business of slavery by placing Medallions equipped with QR Code technology, at or near sites in Rhode Island that are historically connected to slave-related history.