Located on the RIC campus, the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society is dedicated to the preservation of artifacts — books, art, pamphlets, letters, images, and any other historical material — relating to the history of the Black community in Rhode Island, and the telling of the story of the descendants of the African Diaspora. There are currently two exhibits now on display: “Before Malcolm & Martin: The Fight for Civil Rights in RI, 1865-1968,” and “Frank Jackson, Light & Shadow.”
In “Before Malcolm & Martin” several panels of text, photographs, newspapers, and documents, remind us of the leaders and heroes, as well as the lesser-known community groups and church congregations who fought for equality here in Rhode Island. They laid down the groundwork, creating the political infrastructure which both men were able to access when forming their own organizations. The timeline adds context with the pivotal Supreme Court decisions, state legislation, the founding of the Providence Chapter of the NAACP, and so forth. The only place on the timeline for Malcolm and Martin? The years of their birth: Malcolm X, born in 1925 and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1929. So while we should honor the work of these two leaders, we must not forget the work and sacrifice of the heroes who came before.
“Before Malcolm and Martin” will be up through February 28, at which time the exhibit will begin a tour around the courthouses of the state.
The Society is currently working to organize its sizeable collection of books, documents, cameras, photos, etc. into a usable archive for researchers and students. To that end, noted photographer Frank Jackson was invited to the college as the RIBHS inaugural Artist in Residence and asked to photograph items from the collection. He works primary in black and white and, judging from his IG page, he seems to have a thing for coffee cups. And apparently he discovered Haven Brothers during his residency.
“Frank Jackson, Light & Shadow” will remain on display through March 6.
(To get there, enter from Mt. Pleasant Avenue and take you first right onto Cole Road. Then first right, first left, then all the way down on the right. I mention this because not all buildings on the RIC campus are so easy to get to. Lots of free parking.)