Providence in Providence County, Rhode Island — The American Northeast (New England)
Fox Point Cape Verdean Community
Providence Harbor Walk at Fox Point & India Point
Cape Verdean Immigration to Rhode Island
The Cape Verdean community in Fox Point originated from the Cape Verde Islands, a tiny archipelago lying 240 nautical miles off the coast of West Africa. Uninhabited prior to discovery by the Portuguese between 1460 and 1462, Cape Verdeans developed as a mix of Africans, Portuguese, and other European voyagers to the islands. Renowned mariners and seafares, Cape Verdeans began making contributions to New England immediately after the Revolutionary War. Whaling ships from Nantucket and New Bedford, Massachusetts sailed to Cape Verde to enlist crew who were eager to take dangerous and low-paying work, in order to escape the drought-stricken island.
As the whaling industry declined in the late 1800s, Cape Verdeans moved to land-based employment, settling first in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
The trickle of immigration turned into a flood at the turn of the 20th century. Cape Verdean fleeing cycles of drought, starvation, and harsh colonial rule filled the need for cheap labor in the cranberry bogs, textile mills and factories throughout southeastern New England. By 1924, approximately
Fox Point Cape Verdean Community
In Providence, Cape Verdeans settled in old wooden-framed housed along the waterfront and nearby docks, in factories, at Brown University and in the homes of wealthy residents on the East Side. By the 1940s, the Cape Verdean community in Fox Point was thriving as the first American-born generation grew up and began raising their families.
Providence, RI about 1945-1955.
The “Madalan,” a sailing vessel from Cape Verde, in dock on the Providence River at South Water Street. Photo by Charlotte Estey, courtesy of Rhode Island Historical Society, Madalan Neg#RHI (E79) 1103
Ronald and Marilyn “Woogie” Gomes, Benvinda Perry, George and Manny Mendes, Josephine Perry sitting on a stoop in Fox Point, 1940s. Photo courtesy of SPIA Media Productions, Inc.
The Boys Club on South Main Street was the second home for generations of boys from Fox Point. Established in 1916, the club kept the boys off the streets by offering
The St. Antioni Cape Verdean Association, founded in 1934 was Rhode Island’s first Cape Verdean beneficent society and provided health and death benefits to its members. Photo courtesy of SPIA Media Productions, Inc.
Local 1329 of the International Longshoremen’s Association was organized in 1933 largely by Cape Verdeans in the Port of Providence. The union was the economic lifeline for the community. Generations of Local 1329 members “worked the boats,” loading and unloading loose lumber, scrap iron, and coal. Photo courtesy of SPIA Media Productions, Inc.
Urban Renewal in Fox Point began in the late 1950s with the construction of I0195, which cut through the community.
Gentrification and the expansion of nearby universities by the late 1970s forced out most of the remaining Cape Verdeans. The displaced community scattered to other sections of the city or to nearby East Providence. Rosalia “Mamai” Alves, the matriarch of one of the oldest Cape Verdean families in Fox Point, fought to stay in her house on 88 Pike Street, with the assistance of Councilman John Murphy. They won. On April 4, 1998, Pike Street was renamed Alves Way in honor of the Alves family. The house stayed in the family until
Cape Verdean Independence Day
Celebration at India Point Park Cape Verda gained its independence on July 5, 1975 after 500 years of Portuguese rule. The Cape Verdean Subcommittee of Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Verda Commission has organized the annual Independence Day Celebration in Rhode Island since 1977. It is recognized as one of the oldest and largest celebrations in the United States of Cape Verdean Independence Day.
Down by the old Colonial Line
Where the genteel people boarded boats,
We stole the show from big fat rats
That lived around the pier.
We shucked and tucked and winged
And bucked and waited for them coins.
And when they flew, hunger flew,
Away from skinny lions.
And when they yelled, “Hey,
Come on, boys, dance, “ We worked like hell, sang like hell, Told’em all “Go to hell”
Out of our coal blackened lungs.
Not too loud through
We needed the dough
Didn’t wanna steal more coal
For the stoves that never stayed lit,
For the houses that never stayed warm
For our mommas
Who thought all they were born for
Was to scrub down old downtown stores
On knees, wet in the suds they hid in.
So we said, “Go to hell” through our teeth
And cheered ol’ Sneaky Pete
As he drove from a hundred feet for a dollar
And we danced the coal yard step.
Alberto Torres Pereira
Boys swimming in Providence River, about 1930. Photo courtesy of Reflections: Cape Verdeans in Rhode Island Narragansett Electric, March 18, 1954. Providence Journal, Staff photo by William L. Rooney Packet Ship, date unknown, Courtesy of SPIA Media Productions, Inc.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans • Settlements & Settlers.
Location. 41° 49.035′ N, 71° 23.804′ W. Marker is in Providence, Rhode Island, in Providence County. Marker is on India Street. Marker in India Park near the Community Boating Center. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Providence RI 02903, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Fox Point: The 19th Century Port of Providence / Shipping Expands Around the Point (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Welcome to India Point Park (approx. 0.2 miles away); Providence River Bridge (approx. 0.2 miles away); Providence River Park (approx. ¼ mile away); The Fox Point Hurricane Barrier/A Second Life for the Hurricane Barrier (approx. ¼ mile away); Colonial Wharf at South Water Street: 1910-1942 /Fox Point and the Night Boat Era 1822-1932 (approx. ¼ mile away); Tockwotton and the Indiamen / Sails to Rails 1835: Providence's First Train Station (approx. 0.3 miles away); Bridging the Seekonk (approx. 0.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Providence.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 22, 2020. It was originally submitted on August 4, 2014, by Sandra Hughes Tidwell of Killen, Alabama, USA. This page has been viewed 763 times since then and 14 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on August 4, 2014, by Sandra Hughes Tidwell of Killen, Alabama, USA. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.