Using Poor Laws to Regulate Race in Providence in the 1820s


Providence, RI – Market Square in 1844.

From Process: A blog for American History by Gabriel Loicono

In 1825, members of the town council of Providence, Rhode Island, made a public—and unusual—complaint. They took to the newspapers to complain about how much work they had to do. Their goal was to convince the town’s voters to reform local government and take some of the burden off of the council’s shoulders. To support their claims, they compiled a list of all of their duties. This was a rare thing: an enumeration of what kept them busy. Some of these duties, we might reasonable expect: “make and execute the laws for the preservation of the public health.” Others seem quaint: “enforce the law relative to fire buckets.” Still others strike us in a quite negative way: “bind out the children of blacks.”

Read more at Process: A blog for American History


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