Easton’s Beach in Rhode Island

Hosea Easton, Easton Beach’s Literary Son

Nicholas Easton was one of the founders of Newport, Rhode Island. Easton Beach, also known as Newport Beach, was originally named for him. He owned an enslaved Black man named James Easton who was freed by white Quaker members of the Easton family. James Easton eventually married and started a family. His youngest child, Hosea Easton, became a Congregational Church minister and abolitionist.

When Hosea Easton (1798-1837) married and started a family, they moved to Boston but he returned to Providence, Rhode Island, in 1828 to deliver his “Thanksgiving Day Address,” an impassioned scholarly and spiritual speech against slavery. Nine years later, he published A Treatise on the Intellectual Character and Civil and Political Condition of the Colored People of the United States; and the Prejudice Exercised Toward Them, published by Knapp (a Boston publisher) in 1837.

Though he was an articulate and eloquent writer, his primary occupation was church preacher. He pastored several New England churches. The final one in his short life was in Hartford, Connecticut. Tragically, the church burned down.

According to blackpast.org: “Five years after the Thanksgiving Day speech, he took over the pastorate of the Talcott Street Congregationalist Church in Hartford, Connecticut. Racial tensions ran high in Hartford during the 1830s and anti-black harassment and violence were commonplace.  In 1835, a confrontation between whites and blacks took place outside of Easton’s church. The following year, Easton took over the pastorate of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Soon after Easton had begun his new job, a fire destroyed the church building. The fire demoralized Easton. Several months before his death, he published his Treatise on the Intellectual Character, and the Civil and Political Condition of the Colored People of the United States, in which he concluded that racial uplift could not succeed in a white dominated society that physically terrorized black Americans.”

In Newport, the beach originally named for the Eastons, who enslaved and freed Hosea Easton’s father, remains open to the public. It holds the memory of Hosea Easton, who worked to change perspectives in Rhode Island and beyond.

The beach is the fourth stop on the Rhode Island Author Adventures Trail.

Patricia Smart