1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Inventory

5.   Subjects

    List of finding aids

    R.I.H.S. Library page

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 Providence Shelter for Colored Children

 Charitable organization, of Providence, R.I.

 Records, 1838-1996

 Size: 2.5 linear feet

 Catalog number: MSS 653

 Processed by: Harold Kemble, October 1987

 Revised by Rick Stattler, November 2002

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            The Association for the Benefit of Colored Orphans was founded in 1839, and incorporated in 1846 as the Providence Association for the Benefit of Colored Children. Anna A. Jenkins and other Quaker women with abolitionist ties were prominent among the founders. The orphans were housed in a succession of private residences until 1849, when Mrs. Jenkins provided for the construction of a building at 20 Olive Street on College Hill, with facilities for fifty children. The children received basic education, and were placed out as apprentices (the boys at age ten, and girls at age twelve). The association was renamed the Providence Shelter for Colored Children in 1886.

            The need for the shelter's services declined in the early twentieth century with the rise of state-sponsored charities, foster care, and public education. In 1940, with only twelve children housed at the shelter, it was closed as a residence. A building rental agreement with the Children's Friend Society extended from 1941 to 1951. In 1941, for the first time, women of color took a role in the Shelter's administration, on the executive board and as a social worker.

            In 1951, the Providence Shelter for Colored Children decided to withdraw from direct work with children, and became a charitable foundation. The Olive Street building was sold in 1952. Direct scholarship aid was provided to several local African-American college students through 1970. The Shelter also became a major source of funding for the Urban League of Rhode Island, Children's Friend and Service, the John Hope Settlement House, the Mount Hope Day Care Center, and the Lippitt Hill Tutorial (now Volunteers in Providence Schools), among other organizations. It remains an active and important supporter of community youth projects today.


"The Providence Shelter for Colored Children: A History," typescript c1981 in this collection.

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Scope and content:

            The heart of this collection is the complete set of admission records dating from 1839 through 1938, which includes detailed information on individual children who stayed at the shelter. The minute books extend from 1838 through 1994 with a few gaps. The collection also includes treasurer's records dating back to 1936, collected by Mabelle H. Chappell (1913-1997), who served as the Shelter's treasurer from circa 1957 through 1994.

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            This collection arrived in at least nine different accessions, as follows:

#1952.18.1-4, gift of the PSSC. Secretary's report books and minutes, 1844-1896. 4 vol.

#1960.22.1-, gift of Elizabeth Kip. The bulk of the early records; list in accession book.

#1980.123, from unknown donor. 1851 annual report.

#1983.51.1-, gift of the PSSC via Pamela Dahlberg. Records, 1964-1980.

#1986.37.1-, purchase from Frank Lepore. Records, 1849-1972. 1.25 inches.

#1987.40.1-, gift of the PSSC via Pamela Dahlberg. Records, 1980-1986. 0.25 feet.

#1996.47.1-, gift of the PSSC via Pamela Dahlberg. Records, 1989-1993. 5 folders.

#1997.28.1-, gift of the PSSC via Pamela Dahlberg. Records, 1993-1994. 1 folder.

#2002.95.1-, gift of Constance Worthington. Mabelle Chappell's records, 1936-1987. 0.75 feet.

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Admissions books

            April 1839 - September 1844

            April 1839 - May 1845 (abstract)

            January 1877 - November 1938

            January 1879 - 1935

Admission cards

            October 1919 - November 1934

Applications for admission

            June 1905 - June 1930


Record books (with annual reports, correspondence, treasurer's notes and reports, etc.)

            March 1838 - August 1844

            September 1844 - April 1858

            November 1870 - June 1879

            July 1886 - January 1896

            October 1912 - May 1939

            June 1939 - April 1953

            May 1961 - December 1964 (unbound?)

            February 1965 - December 1969 (unbound)

            January 1970 - December 1974 (unbound)

            January 1975 - December 1986 (unbound minutes)

            1989 - 1994 (unbound minutes)


Bank books


Cash journal


Cash journal notes


Check register


Estates and bequests

            Ellen D. Sharpe estate, 1953

Treasurer's reports and audits



Treasurer's files (reports, paid bills, correspondence, taxes, etc.)






            1956/7 - 1957/8


























            1985/6 - 1986/7







            "A Short History of the Providence Shelter for Colored Children, 1839-1939"

            Annual reports, 1851 and 1879

            Board and member lists, 1959-1987

            Christmas lists of children

            Constitution, by-laws, procedures, charter, 1880-1959

            Construction of original shelter building, c1849

            List of subscribers, 1838-1853

            Requests for aid, 1951-1952

            Scholarship correspondence, 1950-1955

            Shelter deed and title notes

            Wills and bequests, 1839-1951


                        Investments list, undated c1900

                        Title guarantee certificate, 1936

                        Report on South Providence Tutorial, 1966-1973

                        "The Non-White in Providence" (by the Urban League c1966?)

                        "Distribution of Non-White Occupancy of Dwelling Units in Providence," 1960                        

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Afro-American children - Rhode Island - Providence

x Association for the Benefit of Colored Orphans (Providence, R.I.)

Chappell, Mabelle H. (1913-1997)

Charities - Rhode Island - Providence

Child welfare - Rhode Island - Providence

Children's Friend and Service (Providence, R.I.)

Jenkins, Anna A. (Brown) (1790-1849)

John Hope Settlement House (Providence, R.I.)

Lippitt Hill Tutorial (Providence, R.I.)

Mount Hope Day Care Center (Providence, R.I.)

Orphanages - Rhode Island - Providence

x Providence Association for the Benefit of Colored Children (Providence, R.I.)

x Providence Children's Friend Society (Providence, R.I.)

Scholarships - Rhode Island

Urban League of Rhode Island

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