On Saturday, February 11, at 2 pm, Historic Huguenot Street will host a talk with historians Eric Roth and Keith Stokes entitled “American Irony: Religious Freedom & Slavery in Colonial New Paltz and Newport, Rhode Island,” exploring the moral contradictions in early American settlements. Like early New Paltz, Newport served as a center for religious tolerance in colonial North America. However, those who sought religious freedom in these colonies ultimately prospered due to the enslavement of Africans.
The talk will include an overview of Roth’s paper “The Society of Negroes Unsettled: The History of Slavery in New Paltz, NY.” Roth has worked as an archivist, historian, and grant writer. He holds a Master’s Degree in Library Science from SUNY Albany and has worked for Historic Huguenot Street and SUNY Orange. Roth currently holds the position of Manager of Grants & Organizational Funding at Mohonk Preserve and teaches history at SUNY New Paltz.
Stokes will also discuss the tensions between religious, commercial, and government institutions as they debated abolition and freedom in the years leading up to the American Revolution, and the Newport African community’s rapid evolution from enslaved to free. A native of Newport, Stokes has served as a Rhode Island Advisor for the National Trust for Historic Preservation along with serving on numerous regional and national historic preservation boards. He is a founding partner and Vice President of the 1696 Heritage Group. An expert in early African and Jewish American history, he has received the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society’s Fredrick Williamson Award, the Daughters of the American Revolution Excellence in Community Service Award, and, with his wife, the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities Prize for Creative Achievement in the Humanities.