Newport Day of Design: African Heritage Entrepreneurship & Makers of History

September 27, 2021 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm Griswold House and Bellevue Avenue neighborhood

Walking Tour and Presentation with Keith Stokes

It is well known that Newport, RI is filled with history. But whose history are we telling? And who gets to tell it?

Join Keith Stokes and the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society on a tour of Bellevue Avenue in Newport to explore the untold and sometimes mis-told stories of entrepreneurship of African heritage individuals in early Newport. Learn about these makers, innovators and inventors of the gilded age whose hands and minds helped build Newport, and walk the area where many of these African heritage entrepreneurs lived, worked and worshipped within the Bellevue Avenue and Historic Hill neighborhoods. During this tour and presentation, Keith will share artifacts and primary source documents that illustrate the impact of these forefathers on the historic city by the sea.

The Museum is pleased to join our partners DESIGNxRI and the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society in celebration of DESIGN WEEK RI and the Newport Day of Design by recognizing the significant contributions of designers and entrepreneurs of African heritage in early Newport.

Event begins with a presentation at the Newport Art Museum followed by a walking tour of the Bellevue Avenue neighborhood.

This event is FREE, but space is limited to 30. Reservations are required.
Be sure to check out all of the Newport Day of Design events!

About Keith Stokes

Mr. Stokes is presently Vice President with the 1696 Heritage Group. The 1696 Heritage Group is a historical consulting firm dedicated to helping persons and institutions of color to increase their knowledge and access to the light of truth of their unique American heritage. The firm draws on extensive knowledge and experience in ethnic American historical research, interpretation, program, and product development.

Mr. Stokes has a long and distinguished career in business and community development, with degrees from Cornell University and the University of Chicago. His past professional positions have included Executive Director of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation and Executive Director of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce.

He has also been an Advisor for Rhode Island with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and served on numerous regional and national historic preservation boards, including Chairman of the Touro Synagogue Foundation, Vice President & Trustee of the Preservation Society for Newport County, and Newport Historical Society.  Mr. Stokes is a frequent national, state, and local lecturer in community & regional planning, historic preservation, and interpretation with an expertise in early African and Jewish American history.  Mr. Stokes frequently appears on national historical programs, including C-SPAN, Fox News Legends & Lies, and Ted Talk. Mr. Stokes has traveled to Ghana, Africa, to deliver a lecture as part of the 400th Anniversary of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Recently, he was the lead researcher and author of “A Matter of Truth” report for the examination and documentation of the role of the City of Providence and State of Rhode Island in supporting a “Separate and Unequal” existence for African heritage, Indigenous, and people of color.

He has been the recipient of numerous local, state, and national awards, including the United State Small Business Administration – Rhode Island Small Business Advocate of the Year Award, American Sail Training Association Leadership Award, Rhode Island Black Heritage Society’s Fredrick Williamson Award Historic Preservation Award, Rhode Island Martin Luther King Keeper of the Dream Award and along with his wife, is the recipient of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities Prize for Creative Achievement in the Humanities.


DESIGNxRI (DxRI) is a nonprofit economic development organization with a mission to create an opportunity-driven environment for RI designers, design businesses, and the design sector to thrive. We believe design is a critical economic sector that drives change globally, socially, and locally. As the only statewide organization for design in RI, we build value in the sector by investing in RI design talent, increasing strategic assets in the field, and connecting this talent to key opportunities.

About the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society

The Rhode Island Black Heritage Society is constituted for the purpose of: Procuring, collecting, and preserving books, pamphlets, letters, manuscripts, prints, photographs, paintings, and any other historical material relating to the history of the Blacks of Rhode Island; encouraging and promoting the study of such history by lectures and otherwise; and publishing and diffusing information as to such history.

Our founding mission statement has been expanded: it is the preservation of African Diaspora descendant’s historical artifacts – books, art, papers and images, as well as facilitating the interpretation of history to enlighten others about our heritage.

We have continued our commitment to focus on a more inclusive program of exhibits, research and events that will share history and open insights into the future that creative survival has made possible for African descendants – from former slaves to immigrants and to native born descendants.

Beyond educating the public, the society is responsible for advancing the culture and documenting the contributions of the African Heritage Community in Rhode Island.

All images courtesy of The Rhode Island Black Heritage Society. Left to right:
Andrew J. Tabb – Operated Livery Business on Edgar Court and founder of Mt Olivet Baptist Church
Dr. Alonzo Van Horne – First African heritage dentist in Newport and founder of Newport NAACP. Lived at 47 John Street
Dr. Harriet Rice – First African heritage graduate of Wellesley College and WWI medical doctor in France. Practiced at 75 Spring Street