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Dark WorkThe Business of Slavery in Rhode Island$
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Christy Clark-Pujara

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781479870424

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479870424.001.0001

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Building a Free Community

Building a Free Community

Chapter:
(p.110) 5 Building a Free Community
Source:
Dark Work
Author(s):

Christy Clark-Pujara

Publisher:
NYU Press
DOI:10.18574/nyu/9781479870424.003.0006

This chapter demonstrates how African American used institution building to address the racism that relegated them to the margins of politics, the economy, and society as a whole. In the colonial period the business of slavery served to enslave black people; in the postcolonial period it served to impoverish, alienate, and disenfranchise black people. In response black Rhode Islanders built mutual aid societies, schools, and churches to fight for their rights as free people. They established: The Free African Union Society in 1780, the African Benevolent Society in 1807, the Female Benevolent Society in 1809, and the African Union Meeting House in 1819. These organizations were of special value to developing communities because they helped create and institutionalize different roles, relationships, values, and ways of living outside the institution of slavery. The birth of black institutions throughout the North demonstrated the desire of black people to direct their own futures. These institutions relieved individual blacks of some of the burdens of their everyday lives and created a multilayered community that could act in black people’s interests.

Keywords:   mutual aid society, African colonization, Sierra Leone, institution building, black middle class

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