A movement is afoot to honor a pair of Providence’s most illustrious citizens, Christiana and Edward Bannister, by naming a street in their honor, and we support this effort. City Councillor Sam Zurier has introduced a resolution to rename Magee Street (currently named for William Fairchild Magee, a slave trader and opium merchant) to honor instead the Bannisters.
Local historian, former state rep, and current director of Stages of Freedom, Ray Rickman wrote a great piece in support of this initiative for the Providence Journal, “Honor those who are worthy of a city street name.” The biography of nationally recognized 19th-century landscape painter Edward Bannister is remarkable enough, the achievements of his wife Christiana were astounding given the times. We honored her a few years ago for Womens History month, but Mr. Rickman reminds us in a nutshell of what she accomplished.
. . . a businesswoman and philanthropist at a time when few women, and even fewer African-American women, could be either, owned salons in Boston and Providence. For elites in both cities, frequenting her establishments was all but required. She raised money for Civil War veterans and widows, and established the Bannister Nursing Home for elderly, indigent African-American women. It was Christiana’s financial success that enabled her husband Edward to pursue his career as an artist.
Supporting this proposal is almost too easy. If there is any opposition to this proposal from the council we will let you know.
Magee Street runs from George Street to Benevolent Streets. It is only one block long, but it is lovely and includes a unique bear fountain. The address change will inconvenience only the Brown Faculty Club and a few other Brown facilities. (They can tap into their $3-billion endowment for the new stationery.) It will require only two new street signs.
Having a Bannister Street on the East Side makes sense: Edward Bannister was a founder and member of the Providence Art Club and was an original board member of the Rhode Island School of Design. The couple is buried in the North Burial Ground.
And these two people are so fascinating and worthy. As Mr. Rickman writes, “Christiana and Edward are the kind of trailblazers who deserve celebration. By honoring their accomplishments, Providence can make a clear statement about who deserves praise from our city.”