RI Historical Society programs Black History Month events


The Rhode Island Historical Society will commemorate Black History Month with a full slate of programs in February highlighting the achievements and impact of Black Rhode Islanders, as well as the work of contemporary Black-led organizations.

Programs include:

“Valley Talks: Making Art History,” Sunday, Feb. 4, 1:30 p.m., The Museum of Work & Culture (42 S. Main St., Woonsocket) — “In September 2023, more than 120 years after his passing, Providence honored gifted artist Edward Mitchell Bannister with a public statue. Hear about Bannister’s history and legacy from RIHS Executive Director Christiana Morgan Grefe, followed by sculptor Gage Prentiss detailing his inspiration and process in creating this tribute.

“A Purposeful Life: Charles Thomas and the Struggle for Racial Equality in Sports,” Wednesday, February 7, 7 p.m., via Zoom — “Historian Robert Cvornyek will present on Rhode Island-born athlete Charles Thomas. Thomas lived most of his life in Providence as a respected mentor to the city’s African American youth. During his long athletic career, Thomas competed at the amateur, collegiate, semi-pro, and professional levels. He integrated a few line-ups along the way but also played on teams comprised solely of non-white players. His multiple experiences provide insight into how Black athletes navigated the troubled waters of segregation, found pride in all-Black teams, and showcased their talents to advance the struggle for freedom and equality in several different arenas, including the baseball diamond, basketball court, and football field.”

Dr. Ira Reid: “Haverford College’s Unsung Scholar Activist Documentary Screening with Rhode Island Black Film Festival,” Saturday, February 10, 2 p.m., at the Aldrich House, 110 Benevolent St., Providence: “(Reid) tells the story of the transformational scholar who strengthened the chorus of justice, peace, and equal opportunity for all. In the first half of the 20th century, Ira de Augustine Reid was the first African American to pioneer the acceptance of Black scholars as faculty members at predominantly White Northern universities. His study of Black immigrant communities resulted in a close working relationship with W. E. B. DuBois. He later mentored a young Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who served as Reid’s research assistant. Following the screening, director Rel Dowdell will speak about the process of creating the film and the importance of Reid’s legacy.”

The Rhode Island Historical Society, the state’s oldest and only state-wide historical organization, is dedicated to honoring, interpreting, and sharing Rhode Island’s past to enrich the present and inspire the future. Founded in 1822, the RIHS is an advocate for history as a means to develop empathy and 21st-century skills, using its historical materials and knowledge to explore topics of timeless relevance and public interest. As a Smithsonian Affiliate, it is dedicated to providing high-quality, accessible public programming and educational opportunities for all Rhode Islanders through its four sites: the John Brown House Museum, the Museum of Work & Culture, the Mary Elizabeth Robinson Research Center, and the Aldrich House.

The headquarters of the Rhode Island Historical Society are located at 110 Benevolent St., Providence. For more information, call 401-331-8575, or go to their website (rihs.org). Follow the RIHS on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.


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