Prior to industrialization, Rhode Island was heavily involved in the slave trade during the post-Revolution era. Slavery was extant in RI as early as the 1600s. By 1774, the slave population of RI was 6.3%, nearly twice as high as any other New England colony. In the late eighteenth century, several Rhode Island merchant families (most notably the Browns, for whom Brown University is named) began actively engaging in 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 more molasses. The 18th century Rhode Island's economy depended largely upon the triangle trade. Rhode Island merchants controlled between 60 and 90 percent of the American trade in African slaves.

In February 1784 the Rhode Island Legislature passed a compromise measure for gradual emancipation of slaves within Rhode Island. All children of slaves born after March 1 were to be "apprentices," the girls to become free at 18, the boys at 21. By 1840, the census reported only five negro slaves in Rhode Island but Rhode Island manufactured numerous textiles using cotton from the southern slave states and continued to deal in slave trading.

Rhode Island became a hotbed for abolitionists in the years just prior to the war and when the war came eighteen units were formed for the Union. Rhode Island furnished 25,236 fighting men, of which 1,685 died. For all their rhetoric, this represents 6.7% of their men killed as compared to South Carolina's 28.5% killed in the war.

After the war, in 1866, Rhode Island abolished racial segregation throughout the state, but racial tensions simmered just below the surface. While thousands of immigrants were welcomed from England, Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Quebec, Southern and Eastern Europe, and the Mediterranean, negroes were not welcome. Ku Klux Klan membership surged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries largely among the native-born white population. The Klan is believed to be responsible for burning the Watchman Industrial School in Scituate, Rhode Island, which was a school for negro children.

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Reminiscences of two years with the colored troops
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Forty-six months with the Fourth R. I. volunteers, in the war of 1861 to 1865
by Allen, George H.
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History of the 5th Regiment of R.I. Heavy Artillery, during 3 1/2 Years of Service in North Carolina
by Burlingame, John K.
382 pgs.

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Brown University in the Civil War
by Burnside, Ambrose E.
380 pgs.

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Service With Battery F, First Rhode Island Light Artillery, In North Carolina
by Chase, Philip S.
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The Fourteenth regiment Rhode Island heavy artillery (colored) in the war to preserve the Union, 1861-1865
by Chenery, William H
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History of Company F, 1st regiment, R.I. volunteers, during the spring and summer of 1861
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History of the Seventh Squadron, Rhode Island Cavalry
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Sabres and spurs : the First Regiment Rhode Island Cavalry in the Civil War
by Denison, Frederic
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The history of Battery H, first regiment Rhode Island light artillery, in the war to preserve the union, 1861-1865
by Fenner, Earl
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My first campaign
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The history of Battery E, First regiment Rhode Island light artillery, in the war of 1861 and 1865, to preserve the Union
by Lewis, George
540 pgs.

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Official register of Rhode Island officers and soldiers wo served in the United States army and navy from 1861 to 1865. Published by order of the General assembly, January session, 1866
by Rhode Island General Assembly
96 pgs.

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The Second Rhode Island volunteers at the siege of Petersburg, Virginia
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History of the Ninth and Tenth Regiments Rhode Island Volunteers, and the Tenth Rhode Island Battery, in the Union Army in 1862
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Rhode Island in the rebellion (1865
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Battery D, First Rhode Island Light Artillery, in the Civil War, 1861-1865
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History of the Twelfth Regiment, Rhode Island Volunteers, in the Civil War, 1862-1863
by Tillinghast, Pardon Elisha
394 pgs.

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A narrative of the campaign of the First Rhode Island regiment, in the spring and summer of 186
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The Second Rhode Island regiment: a narrative of military operations in which the regiment was engaged from the beginning to the end of the war for the union
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