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Lecture: Slavery in Colonial Rhode Island with Fred Zilian, Ph.D.

February 27 @ 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM

In recognition of Black History Month, Portsmouth Free Public Library will present a talk by Portsmouth resident Fred Zilian, Ph.D. on Tuesday, February 27 at 6:30 PM. The histories of colonial Rhode Island and of slavery in the New World are intimately connected. This talk will first describe the beginnings of slavery in the colony of Rhode Island, its growth in the colony in the 18th century, and Rhode Island’s key role in the Atlantic trading system. It will then examine the business of slavery in Bristol, Providence, “Narragansett County,” and Newport, including the demographics of slavery, the lives of the enslaved, and resistance to slavery. Q and A to follow.

After a 21-year career as an infantry officer in the Army, Dr. Zilian was an educator at Portsmouth Abbey School, 1992-2015, where he taught history, ethics, and German. He was an adjunct professor (history and politics) at Salve Regina University, 2016-2022. He now gives tours of Newport and of the Battle of Rhode Island.

Dr. Zilian holds a Ph.D. in international relations/strategic studies from the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of numerous articles, essays, and book reviews on history, American society, Germany, religion, music, education, climate change, and globalization in numerous publications. He is the author of: From Confrontation to Cooperation: The Takeover of the National People’s (East German) Army by the Bundeswehr. For 20 years he performed as Abraham Lincoln in his one-man play, “Honest Abe.”

Dr. Zilian is an opinion contributor to The Hill ( ) and a contributing editor to The History News Network ( ). He also contributes to the Online Review of Rhode Island History ( ). He blogs on a wide variety of subjects at and he is writing a book on “The Citizen and the Challenge of American Civilization.

This program is free and open to the public but advance registration is recommended. Please sign up online at or call the Library at 683-9457 to register.


February 27
6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
Event Category:


Portsmouth Free Public Library
2658 East Main Road
Portsmouth, RI 02871 United States
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