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Spring Lecture Series

Am I Not a Man and a Woman: The Rise of African Heritage Political Identity in Gilded Age Rhode Island

Second in a series of lectures in conjunction with the exhibition “Gilded Age Newport in Color”

What you need to know

Am I Not a Man and a Woman: The Rise of African Heritage Political Identity in Gilded Age Rhode Island at Rosecliff has closed.

During the Gilded Age, Newport, Rhode Island was a magnet for leading African heritage families taking part in a rare opportunity for persons of color for unrestricted cultural and political interchange. Newport hosted a number of social and political gatherings of African heritage that ran the broad spectrum of political rallies and became the foundation of the later 20th-century civil rights movements.

Rhode Island Black Heritage Society scholars Theresa and Keith Stokes will draw from the society’s collections of historical documents, manuscripts, photographs and personal narratives of the era to interpret the evolution of Black Civil Rights from the beginnings of the 18th-century Free African Societies to the formation of Colored Women’s Clubs during the Gilded Age.

For more information, email

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Theresa Guzmán Stokes

Theresa Guzmán Stokes is a historian, community activist, U.S. military veteran, innovative leader and creator with two decades of service to causes, organizations and people committed to moving the needle on empowering communities of color, women and youth. After service in the Navy, Stokes centered her professional work on creatively presenting deeply researched stories and projects on the State of Rhode Island and its historical roots. She has participated in and supervised dozens of historic preservation efforts as well as genealogical and cultural resource investigations throughout New England and Virginia.

She is president and founder of 1696 Heritage Group, a historical consulting firm dedicated to helping persons and institutions of color to increase their knowledge and access to the light of truth of their unique American heritage. Stokes is also the founder of Historical Writers of America, a non-profit organization whose mission is to celebrate, support and connect all historical writers. Ms. Stokes' legacy work is as Executive Director of the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society (RIBHS), the oldest African Heritage society in the United States.

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Keith Stokes

Keith Stokes has a long and distinguished career in business, historic preservation and community development, with degrees from Cornell University and the University of Chicago. He is the former Executive Director of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce, Director of Business and Development for the City of Providence and Executive Director of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation.

He has also been an adviser for Rhode Island with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and served on numerous local, regional and national business and public boards, including The Preservation Society of Newport County, Touro Synagogue Foundation, Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission Historical Review Board, Rhode Island Black Heritage Society, Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, Quonset Development Corporation, Rhode Island Foundation, and Governor’s Workforce Board.

Mr. Stokes frequently appears on national historical programs, including C-SPAN, Fox News "Legends & Lies," and TED Talks. Recently, he was the lead researcher and author of “A Matter of Truth” report for the examination and documentation of the role of the City of Providence and State of Rhode Island in supporting a “Separate and Unequal” existence for African heritage, Indigenous, and People of Color. Mr. Stokes is also a direct descendant of an African family that took part in one of the most documented and successful slavery emancipation and reparation efforts in 1795.

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