Our Newport County Fund hits home

Sampson Shaw was born a slave in 1721. Just a toddler when he was sold to Little Compton farmer William Shaw, Sampson cared for livestock, tended crops, and cleared fields as he grew up. Eventually, he negotiated his freedom, served as a soldier in the British army, and, together with his wife Experance, raised two daughters.

If not for our Newport County Fund, we might never have known Sampson’s story. Established in 2002, it was our first fund with a geographic focus. The Fund offers grants of up $10,000 where a relatively small amount of money can be of strategic assistance to nonprofit organizations serving the six communities that make up Newport County.

The Little Compton Historical Society received $10,000 to create a major special exhibition and publication exploring the enslavement and forced indenture of Little Compton residents from the end of the seventeenth century to the beginning of the nineteenth century. "If Jane Should Want to be Sold: New Stories of Slavery and Indenture in Little Compton, Rhode Island" will portray the dramatic differences between the old stories of local slavery as written by historians from past centuries and the new, and sometimes very personal, stories that are now emerging from primary source documents.

The Society’s Managing Director Marjory O'Toole explains that hundreds of men, women, and children of African American, Native American, and European descent were forcibly enslaved or indentured in Little Compton over the course of 140 years. Almost without exception, their stories have been erased or misrepresented in the local historic record, sometimes accidentally, sometimes purposefully. Our grant ensures their voices are being restored to Little Compton's local history as accurately and objectively as possible.

The Society is just one of dozens of local organizations the Fund has supported over the years. The grants are underwriting programs ranging from after-school activities and cleaning up Sachuest Bay to Alzheimer’s supports and job training.

In making the funding decisions, we work with an advisory committee comprised of Newport County residents. Over the years, the Fund has invested more than $2.8 million in programs and services for residents of Jamestown, Little Compton, Middletown, Newport, Portsmouth, and Tiverton. Today, the Newport County Fund is just one of one of several committee-advised funds established here to fulfill the desire of our donors and serve specific issues or geographic areas.

From enriching arts and educational opportunities for young people to underwriting critical health and environmental programs, we are proud to work with partners that are improving lives here. We are grateful to the donors who make this assistance possible and the local men and women who keep us closely connected to the community.


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Providence, RI 02903


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