Have you ever stopped and looked closely at the Soldiers & Sailors Monument? In honor of Black History Month, I invite you to do so, and pay special attention to the elements of the monument that pay tribute to the history of African-Americans in Rhode Island.
To start, stand with your back toward City Hall and look up. You’re facing one of four bronze bas relief sculptures that adorn the sides of the monument. These figures, designed by sculptor Randolph Rogers, are allegorical women depicting the values that were fought for in the Civil War: War, Victory, Peace and Freedom.
The sculpture facing City Hall is Freedom, represented as an African-American woman. She is shown holding broken shackles to symbolize freedom of the slaves.
Now walk to your left, and stand at the corner. On the base of the statue is a plaque that was installed by the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society as a marker on their Rhode Island Afro-American Heritage Trail. This plaque was installed in the modern era. It reads:
This monument commemorates the members of the 1st Rhode Island Regiment and the 14th Rhode Island Regiment Heavy Artillery (Colored) who fought and died in war of the rebellion.
The 14th Rhode Island Regiment served during the Civil War. This regiment was formed in 1863 and recruited approximately 1,837 black soldiers and 77 white officers from Rhode Island.
This statue, significant to our Rhode Island history, will be restored this year. If you’d like to be a part of the restoration of this monument, consider making a tax deductible donation today.