A friend of the Providence-based physician Dr. Carl Russell Gross once wrote, “To talk with Dr. Gross on any subject is a thrilling experience. But to talk with him concerning Rhode Island History is to actually be there where the event is occurring. Every Rhode Islander should have the opportunity to see Rhode Island History as it relates to the Black man through the wisdom and knowledge of Dr. Gross.”
This tour, on which you are about to embark, is an opportunity to “be there” experiencing history through the wisdom of Dr. Carl Russell Gross (1888-1971). Throughout his life, Dr. Gross collected materials in service of a book that he was writing on Black history in Rhode Island. He drafted numerous timelines, each containing short notes on people and organizations, which were donated by his niece to Rhode Island College after his death.
The stories on this tour take their inspiration from Dr. Gross’s notes—readers will find an excerpt from his manuscript after each story. Each vignette stands alone, but taken together we get a picture of an interconnected Black community with its members living, learning, and working throughout Rhode Island during the first half of the 20th century.
Note on Terms: We write about local people of African descent who have diverse identities. In consulting source materials that span a century, the terms “Black” and “African American” were both used and not employed as interchangeable. To the best of our ability, our uses here reflect either how subjects referred to themselves; their identities as native-born and descendants of enslaved Africans under American slavery, or African American; their identities as people of African descent who are not African American, or Black; or their bi- or multi-raciality. 7/13/2021