If Jane Should Want to Be Sold
Stories of Enslavement, Indenture & Freedom
in Little Compton, Rhode Island
Book & Special Exhibition 2016
This summer the Little Compton Historical Society will restore the voices of over 250 forgotten people to our local history. The Historical Society’s latest project uses hundreds of primary source documents to bring to light the lives of people of African, Native American, and European descent who were enslaved and forcibly indentured in Little Compton between 1674 and 1816. The organization will share their stories with the public in a year-long effort that includes a book written by Managing Director Marjory O’Toole, a special exhibition that will run through February 2017, a permanent addition to the Wilbor House tour, a memorial to the enslaved in the Old Burying Ground, a lecture series, programs for school children and a research database.
The project has been sponsored by the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, the Newport Country Fund, The Rhode Island Foundation and The Ocean State Charities Trust as well as over 70 local donors.
Entitled If Jane Should Want to Be Sold, Stories of Enslavement, Indenture and Freedom in Little Compton, Rhode Island the Historical Society’s new book is based on three years of primary source research and tells the true stories of people like Jane who were enslaved by Little Compton families. Jane’s story includes a decision whether or not to be sold, a marriage, a move to another community, and the loss of a son in the Revolution. The Revolution also factors into the story of Boston Wilbor, an enslaved man who secured his freedom by volunteering to serve in the Rhode Island First Regiment. Jane and Boston are just two of the dozens of men, women and children whose stories appear in the 300 page, full-color, softcover book. The book will be available at the Historical Society on July 1 and 2 for anyone attending the special events scheduled on those days and during normal business hours thereafter. The Society will also offer the book in our booth during the Congregational Church Fair on Saturday, July 9 and the Little Compton Antiques Festival on August 5. The cost is $15 for members and $20 for non-members. For anyone unable to come to the Historical Society, the book will be available on Amazon.com beginning July 3. Local stores like Wilbur’s General Store and Partner’s Village Store will also be carrying the book. The Brownell Library will have borrowing copies.
An exhibit by the same title featuring the personal stories of Little Compton’s enslaved, indentured and newly-free people opens to the public on July 2. The exhibit will be open Thursday through Sunday from 1 to 5 PM through Labor Day and on Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5 PM through Columbus Day. It will also be open upon request through February of 2017 for individuals and groups. Admission during normal business hours is free to members and $7.50 for adults and $5 for children who are not members of the Society. Guided tours and school programs are available by appointment.
The exhibition also includes a permanent addition to the Wilbor House tour that recreates the sleeping quarters of Fal Solomon, a forcibly indentured Native American girl who was ordered by the Little Compton Town Council to work for the Wilbor family until she was 18 years old.
Preview Party & Family Day
An Exhibit Preview Party on Friday, July 1 from 6 to 8 PM will celebrate the opening of the Special Exhibition and the availability of the Society’s new book. The author will be available to personalize copies.
A Family Day Celebration of Freedom takes place the following day on Saturday July 2 from 1 to 5 PM and is free and open to the public..
A lecture series featuring topics related to slavery will run through February. Refer back for more information.