Cultural Crossroads

Rhode Island Peoples and Traditions

The Arrivals

Homelands and tribal life

1524 Verrazzano’s ‘Refugio,’ to Blackstone’s, Williams’ and Anne Hutchinson’s 1636 religious refuge

1657/58 Quakers, Spanish and Portuguese Jews

1725 Slaves and Protestant Irish

1700s, English indentured servants,

1800–1840 English mill hands, pre-Famine Irish, Portuguese whalers

1850s Famine Irish, 1860s Fr. Canadians, Scandinavians

1873 Germans

1890s Italians, Poles, Armenians, Greeks

1890s Russian Jews, Swedes, Chinese

1905 Syrian/Lebanese

1912 Azoreans, India

1940s/1950s Hispanics

1980s S. E. Asian, African

Prejudice and Discrimination

Native population treated as pagan; sold as slaves after King Philip’s War

Jews and Catholics without a vote, treated as ‘resident aliens

Slaves seen as property, gradual emancipation, 1778 Black Regiment

Famine Irish: jobs withheld

Dorr War era Nativism prospers

Irish treat Fr. Canadians and Italians second class citizens, monopolizing church and civic jobs

1880s Narragansett Tribal Reservation closed

1900 Americanization programs denigrate immigrants

1920s KKK activity targets Catholics, Blacks and Jews

English only in schools fuels anti-parochial school action

World War prejudice meted out to Italian and German citizens

Post-war discrimination in housing impacts urban areas, schools, services

1965 equal rights protests and riots

Creative Survival: from hand-outs to hands up

1790 Black church growth becomes a foundation for uplift

Expansion of mills creates low skill jobs for waves of immigrants

Jobs for Blacks and Indians lag for 150 years

1830 to 1870s advent of cities means jobs for police/fire/sanitation;

growth of Irish political power dominates job scene for decades.

Extends to public utilities

Higher-skilled jobs as machinists, silver smithing, skilled craftsmen attract newer skilled immigrants

Some immigrant groups seek rise in status through education

Manufacturers add apprentice training programs

Others use night school

Military service in WW, and following, lifts all groups

Role of Clubs/​Organizations

Narragansett tribe

African Union Society

Hibernian Society

Friendly Sons of St. Patrick

Prince Hall Masons

Sons of Italy

Prince Henry Society

Seven Castles Club

Hebrew Free Loan Society

Dom Polski Club

Polish White Eagles

Turnverein Club

Schubert Society


St. Andrews Society

Scandinavian Home

Catholic Youth Organization

political clubs

ethnic sports leagues

Knights of Columbus

Feasts and Festivals


St. Patrick’s Day parades

Black Regiment day

St. Joseph’s Day

Day of Portugal

Greek Festival

Cape Verdean Independence Day

St Rocco’s Festival

Itri Festival

Santa Lucia Festival

Armenian Genocide Memorial

Emancipation Day

Ethnic Role Models

[see Roster of the RI Heritage Hall of Fame]

Role Model to come

Role Model to come