For a number of years, musician and historian Joey La Neve DeFrancesco has been on a mission to educate Rhode Islanders about their slave-trading past. His effort continues today in the Providence Journal with “It’s time to rethink the Gaspee Affair.” For one thing, he wants to disabuse us of the notion that the attack on the Gaspee was conducted by a bunch of liberty-loving commoners.
The Rhode Islanders who burned the Gaspee were wealthy traders who had made fortunes in the business of slavery, and were furious with British incursions into their sordid industry. In this context, the Gaspee raid emerges not as a spark for freedom, but rather the self-interested violence of slave merchants protecting their economic and political power.
We last interviewed Joey when he was giving tours of the John Brown House Museum. He has also been program developer and labor historian at the Old Slater Mill in Pawtucket. Joey plays guitar in nationally acclaimed punk rockers Downtown Boys and also performs as La Neve.
Seen here is the memorial located at the corner of South Main and Planet Streets marking the site of the Sabin Tavern where the men organized on the evening of June 9, 1772.
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