Moselle Gray, photographed in Fall River in 1868.

Little Compton Historical Society will host its Second Annual Juneteenth Observance at the Little Compton Quaker Meeting House, 234 West Main Road. Visitors are welcome to drop in 10 AM to 4 PM on June 18. Our exhibit, If Jane Should Want to be Sold: Stories of Slavery, Indenture and Freedom in Little Compton, Rhode Island, will be available, as will the exhibit’s companion book.

Juneteenth was not previously widely celebrated in New England. In 1866, the enslaved population of Galveston, Texas, learned they had been freed. Annual celebrations marked the occasion that came to be known as Juneteenth. It has gained national recognition since as a day to remember enslaved people and observe the ongoing impacts of slavery in our society. It was declared a federal holiday in 2021. 

The Historical Society’s award-winning exhibit and companion book debuted in 2016. They raise awareness regarding Little Compton’s participation in the Atlantic Slave Trade and share the human stories behind the local people of color who were enslaved, indentured, and free. Among them, a young girl named Moselle was enslaved by Arnold Gray in North Carolina. She and other enslaved people were subject to auction during the settlement of Arnold’s estate. Willard Gray of Little Compton, one of Arnold’s heirs, chose to free Moselle and a man named Benjamin. They were brought to Willard’s home and lived here as some of the town’s very few people of color in the 1860s. Willard’s siblings, also New Englanders, did not make the same choice and sent the enslaved people they inherited from their brother to auction in the South.

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