Christiana Carteaux Bannister

Doing business at the state house often involves standing around and waiting. Fortunately one is surrounded by interesting statuary like this arresting bust outside the senate chamber. The last name caught my attention.

Abolitionist, entrepreneur, and patron of the arts, Christiana Bannister was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 2003. She was born in Rhode Island’s South County sometime between 1820 and 1822.

. . . Details concerning her birth and background are obscure, but she appears to have been of mixed native American and African-American parentage and was undoubtedly descended from slaves that worked the plantations of South County during the eighteenth century.

Bannister met her husband, noted American artist Edward Bannister, in Boston where she worked as a hairdresser; the two were active in the Boston Underground assisting runaway slaves.

During the Civil War, Mrs. Bannister helped to raise money to sustain the famous Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Regiment of black soldiers, immortalized in the motion picture ‘Glory.’

After the Civil War, the Bannisters moved to Providence where Christiana opened another salon and became a patron of the arts. She was deeply involved in improving the lives of African-American women and founded the Home for Aged and Colored Women at 45 East Transit Street, a facility that evolved into today’s Bannister Nursing Care Center on Dodge Street in Providence.

Christiana is buried with her husband Edward in the North Burial Ground.

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