Plaque Stolen From Bannister Gravestone

This is enraging. The bronze plaque attached to the gravestone of noted 19th-century Black artist Edward Bannister has been stolen; a reward of $5,000 is being offered for its safe return. The plaque’s absence was first reported to the North Burial Ground by a pedestrian on Tuesday. From the ProJo:

“This is a real loss to a number of communities and unfortunate that this was stolen – probably for scrap,” said City Cemetery Director Annalisa Heppner in an email announcing the theft. “We filed a police report and detectives responded immediately. We will also be reviewing camera footage and are hopeful scrap shops may have seen or received it.”

Seen here is the now blank stone; there is a photograph of the bronze in the ProJo article. Let’s hope that the police response wasn’t too late; we don’t really know when the theft occurred.

By Wednesday, a distraught Ray Rickman and Robb Dimmick, of the museum-bookstore Stages of Freedom alerted the newspaper announcing the monetary reward.

Rickman, a local civil rights figure and former state lawmaker, said he has already raised $4,000, and an additional $1,000 will be contributed by the museum to the pot of rewards. Rickman said he is willing to arrange an out-of-state drop-off of the plaque in Massachusetts where the thief could leave the item risk-free.

The piece was created in 1975 by African American RISD professor of illustration, Mahler Ryder. From his 1992 obituary in the New York Times.

Mr. Ryder, a faculty member at the School of Design since 1969, was also a painter, sculptor and jazz pianist. A self-taught musician, he organized an exhibition of jazz-related art for an international tour last year under the auspices of the United States Information Agency. He also did a series of paintings based on jazz themes.

RI Monthly also has a photo of the bronze. They spoke with Mr. Rickman:

“This is an unholy act, entering a sacred space and desecrating one of the city’s most important memorials to Black excellence.”

(First opened in 1700, the North Burial Ground is the city’s municipal burying ground. More information about this historic cemetery at the North Burial Ground Project.)

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