Between 1700-1850, the city of Newport in tiny Rhode Island launched more slave trading voyages than anywhere in North America. And in a time when conservative school boards and state leaders around the U.S. are banning lessons about race and racism in schools, Newport is confronting its past: teaching students local Black history, African heritage, and Rhode Island’s role in the slave trade.

“Rhode Island high schools — Newport included — have clearly begun to incorporate lessons reckoning with its slave trading history, but have further progress still to make,” King said in an email to The 74.

“Whenever you tell the history of slavery, you must tell the history of resistance. Because there wasn’t a time that it existed without it,” said Clark-Pujara. “It is so damaging to students, and especially to African-American students, to sit in the classroom and just hear about all of the terrible things that were done to Black people.”

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.