Rhode Island’s Dark Past
Any racial dialogue that wishes to come to grips with slavery existing in North American must start with how the African slaves arrived here. After a full discussion on the Arab and tribal slave trade on the African continent, next on the list should be the European and later New England transatlantic slave trade. It should be then pointed out that absolutely no slavers plying the African coast were fitted out in Southern ports, nor did they fly the flags of the American Confederacy.
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Rhode Island’s Dark Past:
“Soon after its settlement, Bristol (Rhode Island) people began to engage in commerce with the West Indies and the Spanish Main. The first recorded shipment (November 6, 1686) consisting of a number of horses, was consigned to the “Bristol Merchant,” bound for Surinam, British Guiana. Slave trade was introduced in Rhode Island about 1700, and Bristol was not slow in joining Newport and Providence in this highly profitable industry.
It has been estimated that over a fifth of the total number of slaves crossed the Atlantic to British American in Rhode Island vessels, and that of this fifth Bristol slavers carried the largest share. Horses, sheep, pickled fish, onions, carrots, etc. made up the cargo on the outward voyage, and coffee, molasses, sugar, rum and tropical fruits were imported. The outbreak of the Revolution struck hard at the prosperity of this flourishing commercial town.
After the war the people of Bristol rebuilt the town and commerce was soon revived, especially the slave trade with Africa and molasses and rum trade with Cuba."
(Rhode Island, A Guide to the Smallest State, Louis Cappelli, Houghton Mifflin, 1937, pp. 184-185)