A place meant to honor America’s first veterans will soon go the way of the dinosaur.
Militia Common, also known as Liberty Square – a tiny triangle of grassy land located at Farewell and Marlborough Streets in Newport – is a significant piece of Newport, and Rhode Island, and American, and world history about to go extinct.
While other nearby historically important structures, such as the White Horse Tavern, and the Great Friends Meeting House, and the Colony House are lovingly preserved, the grim reaper is coming for Militia Common. Likely going to the grave with it is the grandfatherly tree that inhabits the land, unless the builders of The Newport Middle Passage Port Marker Project spare the tree’s life.
The Newport Middle Passage Port Marker Project, with the approval of the Newport City Council, has staked its claim on the lot of land and soon Militia Common will be no more.
For the Newport Middle Passage Port Marker Project’s proposed “living memorial,” Bonder and Maryann Thompson Architects of Watertown, Massachusetts, plan a design to feature “five 11-foot walls at the front of the memorial. Once through the walls of the site, the visitor would emerge into a large, open space Bonder calls “the vessel,” which will feature three, 14-foot walls at the back of the memorial with inscriptions and benches,” reported Newport this week, June 30, 2022.
Militia Common is a place where men were trained to fight for America during the War for Independence.
Not long ago, the slogan “Support the Troops” was on bumper stickers plastered on vehicles on roads across America. The founding troops, the early veterans of America, are recognized, honored, at Militia Common. The historic marker reads:
Militia Common C1700
This piece of land was given to the town of Newport by Major Nathaniel Sheffield and Mr Daniel Thurston as common land to be used as a mustering place for the militia
This marker dedicated by the Artillery Company of Newport on their 250th year of continuous active service 1741-1991
Set to be built at Militia Common, The Newport Middle Passage Port Marker Project: “planned historical monument will honor and memorialize Africans who lost their lives on slave ships as well as the survivors and their descendants. The local project is part of a national effort to research and identify all 48 port sites in the present United States that were ports of entry for Africans during the 300-plus years of the trans-Atlantic human trade,” reported the Newport Daily News, August 24, 2018.
The project is part of a nationwide effort, while Militia Common is local. No one is objecting to The Newport Middle Passage Port Marker Project or hiding the sin of slavery of the country’s past. Terrible details of that sin were published as least as long ago as the early 1800s. Two examples:
-American William Lloyd Garrison established his abolitionist newspaper The Liberator in 1831, and despite persecution, only ceased publishing his newspaper in 1865 when the Civil War ended.
-The American Anti-Slavery Society in 1839 published American Slavery as it is Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses, by abolitionist Theodore Dwight Weld with his abolitionist wife Angelina Grimké, and her abolitionist sister Sarah Grimké.
In fact, people seem eager to support the sharing of the history of slavery while supporting the preservation of other history.
At least one other site was suggested as far back as 2018, perhaps others were too:
“The triangular place where the fountain was located at the southernmost section of Eisenhower Park in Newport’s Washington Square, where the Newport Town School House stood should be the best designated location for Newport’s Middle Passage Port Marker Monument, not Liberty Square,” was stated in a letter to the editor of Newport this week newspaper in 2018.
Another marker at the spot set for carving out for the Newport Middle Passage Port Marker Monument reads:
This mustering ground was restored on the occasion of the 350th birthday of the city of Newport thru the generosity of Brian C. Pelletier and The White Horse Tavern Rededicated September 9, 1989
Robert J. McKenna
John J Greichen
Newport 350th Chairman
On the website of the nationwide Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project (MPCPMP) is stated that their mission includes “Encouraging local communities to hold remembrance ceremonies at each of the 52 documented Middle Passage port sites in the United States of America,” and “the MPCPMP logo reflects our vision and purpose. We are a catalyst in achieving these objectives:
Connecting with our ancestors (the unbroken circle)
Incorporating and learning lessons and values from our past in order to move forward (Sankofa)
Acknowledging the responsibility of those living in the present to invite and include ancestors and the unborn in daily life (the cross – vertical and horizontal lines”
Families of the men who fought, some even wounded or died, for America in the revolution, are also “connecting with our ancestors (the unbroken circle)” as was evident from the recent honoring in Newport of President George Washington on his birthday – by descendants of American Revolution participants.
Meanwhile, the Newport Middle Passage Port Marker Project moves forward at Militia Common, aka Liberty Square that’s “a designated “site of memory” by the United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization… Liberty Square has served as a gathering place with vigils for George Floyd, Black Lives Matter demonstrations and a commemoration to honor the first landing of enslaved people in the American colonies,” according to a Newport this week report of June 30, 2022.
Apparently “…reported incidents of UN peacekeepers’ involvement in a human-trafficking crisis was during the Balkans conflict, specifically Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo, where the presence of the Blue Helmets in 1992 ‘sparked an unprecedented increase’ in the trafficking of women and girls, and helped establish a network of brothels and human trafficking that had not existed earlier,” according to the February 26, 2019 article posted at the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime website.
America’s first troops were trained in Newport at the slice of land designated a “site of memory.”
Newport Middle Passage Port Marker Project means Militia Common will cease to exist. Millions are learning the horrible history of slavery. It’s unknown if the history of the troops of the Newport, R.I. area will die with Militia Common.