The Preservation Society of Newport County announced today that they have received a $50,000 grant from the National Trust of Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. The Preservation Society says that the grant will assist efforts to preserve Newport’s God’s Little Acre, a nationally significant burial ground, in collaboration with the City of Newport’s Historic Cemetery Advisory Commission.
God’s Little Acre contains approximately 200 professionally carved headstones dating from 1800 and earlier for freed and enslaved Africans. This substantial collection of colonial-era headstones is notable for its size and elaborately carved detail crafted during a time when African graves were typically left unmarked in the United States. The grant will provide critical funding to conserve approximately 30 colonial-era slate headstones in one of the oldest and most intact African burying grounds in the United States.
Since 1903, God’s Little Acre has suffered the incremental loss of nearly 80 slate headstones. The layered quality of slate makes it sensitive to moisture and the New England freeze-thaw cycles, resulting in delamination and material loss. Support from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund will leverage previous investments by the City of Newport, The Rhode Island Black Heritage Society, and support from private donations to preserve this important historic site.
“God’s Little Acre is a critical resource for the exploration of Newport’s African American heritage,” says Leigh Schoberth, Preservation Policy Associate, The Preservation Society of Newport County in a press release. “Through conservation, this support will help us continue to educate the public about the significance of this site.”
The site contains headstones of well-documented members of Newport’s colonial African community, such as Pompey Stevens, Duchess Quamino, and Arthur Tikey. For others, the headstones serve as the only record of their existence. The iconography, epitaphs, and placement of the headstones offer insight into individuals and family relationships that are otherwise unrecorded. By conserving God’s Little Acre, the site will remain a monument to Newport’s African American Heritage.
The Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island, is a non-profit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and dedicated to preserving and interpreting the area’s historic architecture, landscapes, decorative arts and social history. Its 11 historic properties–seven of them National Historic Landmarks–span more than 250 years of American architectural and social development.
For more information, please visit NewportMansions.org/Advocacy.