Broad Street Historical Banners
In 2023 the Broad Street Historical Banners were installed on a series of lampposts along northern Broad Street as one of Trinity Square Together's neighborhood beautification projects. The banners feature a series of historical figures who have lived and/or worked in Providence. A brief biography of each highlighted individual is listed below, along with the portrait that is displayed on their corresponding banner. If you'd like to nominate someone to be featured on our next series of banners, email us at email@example.com.
Agnes Perry was a community leader in the Trinity Square area of Providence for over 38 years. Though she struggled with alcoholism during much of her early life, she became involved with the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center in 1977, embracing sobriety through religious faith and gradually taking on more leadership roles in the organization. Over time, Perry became a well-known mentor and counselor to many throughout the area, also leading many A.A. meetings and community education programs. Recognized internationally for her contributions, Perry was nominated for the Order of the Founder award in 2013 -- "the highest Salvation Army honor for distinguished service." Today, she is lovingly remembered as a woman deeply dedicated to her faith and her family.
Manny Perez is an acclaimed Hollywood actor who was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to Providence at the age of ten. After studying drama at Marymount Manhattan College in New York City, he went on to co-write, produce, and star in the critically acclaimed 2002 film Washington Heights. At The Milan International Film Festival in Italy shortly after Washington Heights premiered, he won Best Actor Award for his perfomance. Today, he is one of the most well-known Domincan actors in the United States and has accumulated extensive experience in a broad range of successful productions.
The first Black person to perform at Carnegie Hall, Sissieretta Jones' singing talent was evident from an early age. When she was six years old, her family moved to Providence, Rhode Island where she attended Meeting Street and Thayer Schools. In Providence, she began singing in the choir of the Black church where her father ministered and, in 1883, started to study music formally at the Providence Academy of Music. After graduating from the New England Conservatory of Music, she made her New York debut in 1888 at Steinway Hall. Four years later, she performed at the White House for President Benjamin Harrison and went on to sing for four consecutive presidents as well as the British royal family. Beyond the United States and West Indies, Jones also attained widespread international success as she toured in South America, Australia, India, southern Africa, and Europe. In 2013, Jones was inducted into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame.
The only Latino student in Central High's graduating class of 1969, Roberto Gonzalez went on to graduate from the University of Rhode Island's Talent Development Program. In 1974, Gonzalez opened Antillas Restauruant with his brother, where they served Domincan and Puerto Rican cuisine at one of the first Latino restauraunts in the state. In addition to his entrepreneurial ventures, Gonzalez has worked in local political organizing since the 1970s and remains an active member of the Providence Latino community.
William Armstrong was a Black pilot from Providence who flew with the Tuskeegee Airmen during WWII. He wanted to become a lawyer after graduating from Central High School in 1943, but instead entered the airforce in 1944 because of the global conflict. Armstrong trained at the prestigious Tuskeegee Army Flying School, tragically dying in battle on Easter Sunday roughly a year ater completing his pilot studies. After the war, Armstrong's remains were recovered and buried at Grace Church cemetery in Providence.
Rudolph Fisher was a Black physician and writer during the Harlem Rennesaince. He grew up in Providence and, after graduating from Classical High School, attended Brown and Howard Universities. In addition to building a successful private medical practice, he also published several novels and short stories throughout his career. Though he died at just 37 years old, he was a leader of the Harlem Rennesaince who was respected immensely by his peers. Famous poet Langston Huges once said, "Fisher was too brilliant and too talented to stay long on this earth.”
Nehemiah Rice Knight
Nehemiah Rice Knight (1780-1854) was the 9th Governor of Rhode Island and also represented the state on a national level as a Senator. A fierce advocate for public education long before it was normalized, he helped pass the School Act of 1828, which mandated free education in Rhode Island. He also defended Native American rights in the federal legislature, condemming President Jackson's failure to respect indigenous people's humanity and legal protections. Originally from Cranston, Knight moved to Providence in old age and is burried in Grace Church cemetery.
Davey Lopes is a 4-time All Star baseball player of Cape Verdean descent, born and raised in East Providence. He began playing baseball on his high school team at La Salle academy, eventually making his NBL debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1972. After a 16-season career, he transitioned to coaching professional baseball for a variety of teams across the nation, finally retiring in 2017. Providence's Davey Lopes Recreation Center is named in his honor.
Despite her father's opposition to women's education, Lilian Gilbreth eventually obtained a doctorate degree from Brown University and become a leading academic in industrial and organizational psychology. During the great depression, she led the national Unemployment Relief Program and went on to become a well-known advisor on women's labor rights. A mother of 12, published author, and pioneering researcher, Gilbreth led a life of leadership until her passing in 1972 (age 93).
Maritcha Lyons (1848-1929) was the first Black graduate of Providence High School. Born in New York City, she and her siblings moved to Providence in 1865, where she was initially denied entry to Providence High School on account of her race. A daughter of civil rights activits, Maritcha joined Rhode Island's desegregation campaign and, after graduating from the very school that initially refused her enrollment, went on to become a teacher herself. Also a suffragette, Lyons was a leader in New England campaings for women's voting rights and racial equality throughout her career.
Victor Morente is a first-generation Guatemalan-American who immigrated to Providence at the age of six and has gone on to become a leader in local politics. Growing up, his parents worked a variety of hourly jobs to make ends meet, and he attended local public schools. Morente is extremely proud of his roots and his success in becoming the first in his family to graduate from college. In his professional life, Morente has pursued a career in political science, with experience working as Press Secretary for the city of Providence, Communications Director for the Rhode Island Department of Educaiton, and as Communications Director for a U.S. Congressman.
Albro Lyons Sr.
Father of Maritcha Lyons (the first Black student to graduate from Providence High School), Albro Lyons was a civil rights activist whose home in New York City served as a key stop on the Underground Railroad. He also helped lead desegregation campaigns in Rhode Island, assiting with testimonies given before the State Legislature that ultimately led to the desegregation of Rhode Island schools in 1866.
Ingeborg Kindstedt was born in Sweden in 1865, and moved to Providence in the 1890’s. Along with her Swedish partner, Maria Kindberg, she started the Swedish Home for Young Women and Employment Agency. The two were active in the movement to grant women the right to vote, and The Woman’s Political Equality League of Providence met regularly at their house in South Providence. In 1915, they made an epic automobile trip from San Francisco to Washington DC with a 500,000 name petition demanding that women be granted the right to vote. At each stop, large crowds met them and they became national celebrities. When they returned from the 10 week
trip, they continued to work for women’s suffrage until the 19th amendment was ratified by the RI General Assembly in 1920.
Edward Mitchell Bannister
Edward Mitchell Bannister was important in the history of American landscape painting, and many of his paintings are at the National Museum of American Art in Washington. He was born in Canada in 1828, and went to sea at a young age. He decided to become a painter when he read an article in the NY Herald in 1967 that said, “The Negro seems to have an appreciation for art while being manifestly unable to produce it.” Though his formal training was limited, he created a sensation when one of his paintings won first prize at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876. He was a prominent artist in Providence, a founding member of the Providence Art Club and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).
Bertha Higgins (1872 - 1944) lived close to Trinity Square. She was an accomplished dressmaker, a founding member of the Providence Woman’s Suffrage Party and the RI League of Woman Voters, and a member of the Urban League. According to local civil rights organization, Stages Of Freedom, “Higgins…was a suffragist, clubwoman, political and civil rights activist. She belonged to the RI Union of Colored Women's Clubs, part of a national movement of Black women who developed women's clubs to improve the social, political, and economic conditions facing African Americans during a period of extensive racial discrimination at the turn of
Andrew Bell, Jr.
Andrew Bell was born in Providence and graduated from Classical High School. He established the Bell Funeral Home in 1932 to serve the Black community. In addition to being a successful entrepreneur, Bell was a community leader and civil rights advocate. He helped found the Urban League of Rhode Island in 1939 and under his leadership, the League hired Black civil rights attorney Thurgood Marshall, who later became a US Supreme Court justice, to fight unfair labor practices targeting Blacks who worked in the Kaiser Shipyard at Field’s Point. In the late 1950s the League gained national prominence in its fight to end segregation at the Roger Williams Housing Project and at Codding Court. During World War II, Bell also helped to start the Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) and helped to develop University Heights as a mixed-income, mixed-race community. He lived to 92 years old and was truly a pillar of South Providence.
Christina Carteaux Bannister
Christina Carteaux Bannister was an American businesswoman, hairdresser, and abolitionist. She was born in 1819 in North Kingston to Black and Narragansett parents, and was a descendant of enslaved Africans who worked the plantations in South County, Rhode Island. Known as Madame Carteaux, she worked as a hairdresser and owned salons in Boston and Worcester. In 1859, she married Edward Bannister and he became an acclaimed artist with her financial support. In Boston, she participated in the Underground Railroad and provided her hair salons as meeting places for abolitionists. She was also an advocate for equal pay for Black soldiers in the Civil War. After the Civil War, the couple moved to Providence and she founded the Home for Aged Colored Women to provide homes for Black domestic workers who had become too old to work and often ended up homeless. Today, it is known as Bannister Nursing Care Center on Dodge Street.
Ger Xiong is Hmong, part of an ethnic group from the mountains of China, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. During the war in Vietnam, the CIA recruited Hmong soldiers to fight secretly against the Viet Cong in Laos as part of the Special Guerrilla Unit (SGU), and Ger is one of the SGU veterans. After the war, the Hmong were targeted in a genocide, and in the 1980’s, many Hmong survivors emmigrated to Rhode Island and other parts of the United States as refugees. Ger Xiong and his family made it to a refugee camp in Thailand, and then, finally, to Providence. Here, he first found work in a factory, while learning English, and then worked for the Providence Police Department in the communications unit for 27 years. His daughter, Dr. Mailee Kue went to Classical High School and works for Bryant University.
A feminist and nurse, Julia Aldrich contributed to the Rhode Island community throughout her long life. Aldrich refused to marry or have children, instead focusing on her personal goals. Born in Smithfield in 1802, she became the first woman to work at Slater Mill when she was only five years old. After 40 years of mill work, she moved to a homestead in Ohio and was entirely independent and self-reliant, making her own food and clothes. She returned to Rhode Island when her parents became ill and trained to become a nurse. Affectionally called "Aunt Julia" by many who knew her, she acquired a reputation of kindness and levelheadedness. When she passed in 1900, only 12 hours away from her 98th birthday, the Providence Journal published a 500 word eulogy about her life, and she was buried in Grace Cemetery.
Sgt. Victor Butler
Sgt Victor Butler is RI’s last surviving member of the Tuskegee Airmen, an all Black unit of fighter pilots and support staff active during WWII. As a result of their success, they had one of the lowest loss records of all the escort fighter groups, President Harry Truman enacted an Executive Order which directed that there be equality of treatment and opportunity in the US military, effectively ending racial segregation in the armed forces. Sgt Butler turned 100 in 2022, and received over 12,000 birthday cards.
Josefina "Doña Fefa" Rosario
Josefina Rosario was born in the Dominican Republic, the youngest of 10 children. Her father was murdered by the brutal dictator, Rafael Trujillo’s, secret service, and her mother became paralyzed from a stroke. She immigrated to New York City, where she reunited with her sister, Minerva, and met her husband, Tony. She and her husband worked for a restaurant in Warwick when she came to Rhode Island. Later, she started the first Latino store in the state, Fefa’s Market, on Broad Street, and it functioned also as a community center for newly arrived immigrants. She and Tony sponsored many Dominican families, giving them free room and board, helped them find work, etc. She was known by many as the “mother” of the Latino community. Josefina “Doña Fefa” Rosario died in 2018 at the age of 90.
Jeremy Joan Peña, born in the Dominican Republic, moved to Providence when he was 9 years old and attended Classical High School. After a few years in the minor leagues, he was drafted to play shortstop by the Houston Astros in the Major League Baseball (MLB) in 2022. That year, he became the youngest position player be named Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the World Series. He was also the first rookie to win a Gold Glove at shortstop in MLB history.
Sincere thanks to the following individuals for their assistance with this project:
Dan Greenberg (Pearl Street Lofts)
Jazandra Barros (Southside Community Land Trust)
Marta Martinez (RI Latino Arts)
Yarrow Thorne (The Avenue Concept)
Sierra Sanchez (project art designer)
Additional thanks to: