Rhode Island Episcopal Church Confronts Slave Trading Past

This segment originally aired on Sept. 3, 2015 on NPR’s The Takeway

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In one corner of the United States, the Episcopal Diocese is looking to stake its own territory in a push for change against the racial violence that has erupted across America.

The Rhode Island Episcopal Diocese is planning a Center for Reconciliation in acknowledgement of both the state and the Diocese’s long involvement with the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Rhode Island merchants may have controlled as much as 90 percent of the American trade in African slaves in the years following the Revolution, and the state was once called “the Deep North” for its heavy involvement.

Bishop W. Nicholas Knisely has led the Rhode Island Episcopal Diocese since 2012. He hopes that the Reconciliation Center, which is among the first of its kind in the country, will serve as a teaching museum, with artifacts, exhibits and performances.

He believes the Center will help the community better understand the outsized role that the church and this tiny northern state that played in America’s dark past.