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Article-a-Day #108: Atlas Obscura-How a West African Woman Became the ‘Pastry Queen’ of Colonial Rhode Island

IN THE SEASIDE CITY OF Newport, Rhode Island, the corner where Farewell and Warner streets cross is sacred ground. Here, inside the city’s oldest public cemetery, is the area known as God’s Little Acre, the country’s oldest and largest collection of burial markers of both free and enslaved Africans.

During the summer months, when tourists flock to the seaport, lush green blades of grass surround the markers. And when cold winds replace the blustery summer breeze, the stones defiantly jut out from the snow. About 200 markers stand in this small area, memorializing the enslaved Africans who lived and worked in colonial Rhode Island, back when Newport was a major transatlantic slave port. Most were artisans—from stone carvers and candlestick makers to chocolate grinders and bakers.

Duchess “Charity” Quamino, the “Pastry Queen of Rhode Island,” is one of the artisans found here in her final resting place. She is thought to be from either the West African countries of Senegal or Ghana, depending on who you ask. Keith Stokes, vice president of the Newport history organization 1696 Heritage Group, says that Ghana’s Gold Coast is a likely candidate for her birthplace, where she would have been born around 1753. Stokes came to that conclusion “based upon most other African arrivals to colonial Newport at that time.”