Broad Street Historical Banners
The Broad Street Historical Banners will be installed on a series of lampposts along northern Broad Street during May of 2022 as one of Trinity Square Together's neighborhood beautification projects. The banners will 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.
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: