Hard Scrabble and Snow Town was a predominately black Towns in the Providence of Rhode Island.

History of Rhode Island

Rhode Island was heavily involved in the slave trade during the post- Revolution Era. Slavery was extant in Rhode Island in the 17th century. In 1652 Rhode Island passed the first abolition law in the thirteen colonies, banning African slavery. In the late 18th century, several Rhode Island merchant families (most notably was the Brown’s, for whom the Brown University is named) began actively engaging in the triangle slave trade.

In the years after the Revolution, Rhode Island merchant’s controlled between 60 to 90 percent of the American trade in African Slaves. The 18th century Rhode Island’s economy depended largely upon the triangle slave trade, where Rhode Islanders distilled rum from molasses, sent the rum to Africa to trade for slaves, and then traded the slaves in the West Indies for molasses.

Stephen Hopkins served in the Rhode Island Assembly and in 1774 Hopkins introduced a bill that prohibited the importation of slaves into the colony. This became the first anti-slavery law in the new United States. In February 1784 the Rhode Island legislature passed a Compromise Measure for Gradual Emancipation of Slaves within Rhode Island.

The Compromise was:

All children of slaves born after March 1st were to be “apprentices” the girls to become free at 18 years old and the boys at 21 years old. By 1840 the census reported only five African Americans were enslaved in Rhode island.

Hard Scrabble Riot of 1824

Hard Scrabble was a predominantly black neighborhood in Northwestern Providence of Rhode Island were free African American was thriving. Slavery was still extant in the South. On October 18, 1824 a white mob attacked black homes in Hard Scrabble, after a black man refused to get off the side walk when whites approached. The white mob claimed to be targeting places of ill-repute. Hundreds of whites destroyed approximately 20 black homes. Out of the that hundred white rioter only four were tried for rioting, but only one was found guilty. The Hard Scrabble Riot generated little media attention and no sympathy for the victims.


Snow Town Riot of 1831

After the Hard Scrabble Riot 6 years has passed, when in 1831 a riot took placed in Snow Town which was a predominantly black neighborhood and was roughly the same neighborhood as Hard Scrabble. This particular riot was triggered by the shooting death of a white sailor. Once again a white mob targeted the black neighborhood. The mob destroyed blacks homes even though the targeted blacks had no ties with the shooting. This time, the Militia was called out, and killed four rioters.


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