You might think that a story about a graveyard would be sleepy. Not God’s Little Acre. This burying ground in Newport, Rhode Island is packed with incredible stories of some of the first Africans to live on this continent. Many of the historic African-descent burying grounds in the U.S. were destroyed, relocated or lost in various ways. God’s Little Acre is a significant and very notable anomaly. It holds the remains of thousands of people, many of whom lived tremendous lives and made great contributions despite being enslaved and oppressed. Like Duchess Camino, likely the continent’s first free African American woman entrepreneur who, rumor has it, made the best plum cakes you’ve ever tasted. (Even George Washington was said to be partial to them.)
I had no idea that Newport was an early center of the slave trade. Or that residents of African descent secured their freedom and became business owners, esteemed stone carvers, artisans and builders. Now, this burying ground is a physical reminder of the strength and fortitude of Africans and African Americans in North America. These stones are a tangible manifestation of narratives of against-all-odds survival and resilience. I am inspired by those who are working to protect this place. My story, Precious Stones, appears in the fall issue of Preservation magazine.