Although the town of Warren, Rhode Island in the 18th century was surrounded by the slave centers of Newport, Bristol and Providence, its small size has made it a footnote in what has been written about slavery and the slave trade. Building on the work of historians Joanne Pope-Melish, Ruth Wallis Hendron, Christy Clark-Pujara and Marjory O’Toole, Patricia Mues and Sarah Weed use primary sources – including wills, inventories, town meeting records and censuses – to identify the enslaved of Warren.
A year ago, public historians Patricia and Sarah presented “Warren: 34 Years in the Slave Trade” which discussed the role and profit-making of Warren residents in the Triangle Trade. This year’s presentation at Linden Place looks away from slave trading and into the lives of those enslaved in Warren. Patricia and Sarah view their research as a work in progress. Every few weeks, they find information that helps them to identify someone who has been unnamed until that time and helps them to put together fuller stories of the lives and legacies of the enslaved. They have identified dozens of people as well as those who enslaved them. From postmaster to town councilmen to justice of the peace, from farmers to ship builders to innkeepers, Warren residents used the work of the enslaved to further their own families’ futures.
Patricia and Sarah are co-chairs of the Warren Middle Passage Project, a part of the Rhode Island branch of a national organization, the Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project. They are both board members of the Warren Preservation Society.