Our History

With a population of 224,326, Providence was, in 1910, the 21st largest city in the United States. Immigration from Europe, Canada, and the southern states had helped swell the population by nearly 50,000 from the 1900 Census. The city's citizens were cramped in mostly wooden housings amid numerous jewelry, cotton and woolen mills on 17.7 square miles of land at the head of Narragansett Bay.

Negroes, referred to more commonly as "Coloreds" and less commonly as "Blacks," counted as 5,247 of the city's total population. Due primarily to under-counting and the movement of people, it is estimated that the actual number of Negroes living in Providence at that time may have been closer to 6,000, less than 3% of the city's total population. Two-thirds of that number indicated they were born in Rhode Island while the remaining third had migrated to Providence from the Southern states, primarily Maryland and Virginia, with many claiming they moved to escape segregation and "Jim Crow" laws in the South.

On August 6, 1913, Black citizens met at the Ebenezer Baptist Church to discuss recent events in the state. After much discussion it was agreed to start a "statewide movement to fight any discrimination on purely racial grounds against citizens in public places of amusement, entertainment, restaurants, theatres, and by public utilities."

At a meeting on November 5, 1913, nearly 600 people met to hear Dr. Joel Spingarn, President of the NAACP New York branch, speak about organizing a local chapter in Providence. He spoke of how the organization fought and continued to fight against discrimination and segregation, especially the segregation laws and ordinances that restrict Negroes' access to theaters and restaurants.

There are no records or news articles of a December 1913 meeting to organize a branch of the NAACP in Providence, and what occurred at a meeting on January 12, 1914 is also unclear. However, the following week, Dr. Julius J. Robinson was elected as President of the local branch: Rev. Cameron C. Alleyne and F.A. Carter as Vice Presidents; Miss Roberta J. Dunbar as Secretary; Rev. Zachariah Harrison as Treasurer. The new Executive Committee consisted of John C. Minkins, James Dixon, Dr. Andrew L. Jackson, William Heathman, Esq., William P.H. Freeman, and Robert L. Smith.

The new association immediately embarked on a series of successful mass meetings delineating current issues, with the 9th Annual Convention of the NAACP being held in Providence in February, 1918 at the First Baptist Church in America on North Main Street.

From our present point in time, we may proudly look back at the resilience of the NAACP and the NAACP Providence Branch. They have fought against racial oppression over the past century and will continue to do so until all men and women are treated with respect and dignity.


To ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.


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