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Coventry Roots: Two African American Men of Coventry

In honor of Black History month, we highlight the lives of two historical men who lived in the Town of Coventry.

 

Slavery in Rhode Island was common up until the end of the revolutionary war when it was abolished by the Rhode Island General Assembly and both Boston Carpenter and Christopher Greene had served as slaves in homes and on farms in Rhode Island. One received his freedom by enlisting in the American Revolution and the other was granted his freedom by the Town Council of Coventry.

The age and birth place of Boston Carpenter is unknown; however, as his death is listed as 1814 at the age of 66 that, one could estimate his birth date to 1748. As African Americans had not received their freedom in Rhode Island prior to the American Revolution, it is presumed that Boston Carpenter was a slave.  

As most slaves took on their master’s family name, Boston most likely served as a slave to a family named Carpenter; and according to various sources Boston Carpenter served as a body servant to Colonel Christopher Greene, a cousin to General Nathanael Greene during the revolution. Boston was married to Lily (Lippett) Greene, and was stepfather to Margaret and Sylvia. After the war he leased a one acre lot in Coventry from Josiah Potter in November 1791.  He appears in the 1790, 1800, and 1810 Federal Census of Rhode Island. When he died he left a will and his death was reported in the Rhode Island American newspaper. 

Christopher Greene was born in about 1780 and is thought to have been the son of Fortune Greene and Sarah Santee. Christopher was a slave to Benjamin Greene who was a member of the Coventry Town Council.  According to the Coventry Town Council Book I pages 180-181 “April 5, 1802 – Whereas Benjamin Greene, esq. appeared before the council and presented a negroman who was born a slave in order to him his freedom, and relinquish all his right and title to the said negro as a slave, by the name of Christopher Greene." 

"And after examining and viewing said negroman and finding him to be a robust healthy well likely fellow about twenty-two years old and appears to be active ingenious fellow, therefore we the town council do unanimously approve of the said motion. Whereas the said negro by the name of Christopher Greene be and hereby is granted his freedom in the presence of this council.” After Christopher received his freedom he seems to have disappeared from the town of Coventry.

These two men are representative of the small African American community living in the town of Coventry in the 19th century.

Cheryl Robbio February 22, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Wow how intesting

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