By Little Compton Historical Society
Juneteenth is a celebration of the end of enslavement in the United States. It began in Galveston, TX as a commemoration of General Gordon Granger’s 1865 reading General Order #3. That order communicated the news of the Emancipation Proclamation and effectively ended enslavement in the state. Over time, the celebration has gained more general significance and is increasingly recognized as a holiday. Rhode Island began to recognize it as a state holiday in 2012.
Observe Juneteenth with us by honoring those Little Compton residents who lived in varying states of unfreedom. From 10am to 5pm on Saturday, June 19, the Little Compton Historical Society will offer our “If Jane Should Want to Be Sold” exhibition in our historic Friends Meeting House at 228 West Main Road. The exhibit is free and open to all. Please note that all visitors and staff must wear masks while indoors.
This exhibit, originally presented in 2016, was based on Executive Director Marjory Gomez O’Toole’s research on the stories of those people enslaved, indentured, and freed in Little Compton, Rhode Island. Still, despite that work, there is so much left unknown. For example, we do not know why Jane’s enslaver gave her the option to be sold out of the family upon his death, or why Jane chose to remain. This mystery was so profound that it gave the exhibit and its companion book their name.
We invite you to delve into the stories of Jane and many of the other 200 people known to be indentured or enslaved people in Little Compton. After the exhibit, you can pay your respects to Little Compton’s unfree people by visiting a memorial marker placed in the Old Burying Ground on the Commons. It can be located at the center of the last row, nearest Meetinghouse Lane.
The Little Compton Historical Society was incorporated in 1937 to preserve and share the history of Little Compton for the enrichment and enjoyment of the general public.