PROVIDENCE — On Tuesday, Providence City Councilor Samuel
Zurier introduced a resolution to rename Magee Street to Bannister Street. This
is an opportunity for Providence to celebrate two of its leading 19th century
citizens — Christiana and Edward Bannister. “By renaming Magee Street to
Bannister Street, the city can give two African-American luminaries the
recognition they deserve,” said Ray Rickman, former State Representative and
co-founder of Stages of Freedom.
Christiana was a businesswoman and philanthropist while
Edward was a painter. Both were famous in their time and remain prominent
historical figures today. They deserve to be celebrated for their
accomplishments by the city they called home.
Rhode Island has always welcomed artists, from Gilbert
Stuart in the 1700s to Barnaby Evans and the RISD faculty today. Edward
Mitchell Bannister was welcomed by Providence when he arrived in 1870 after
spending time in Canada and Boston. Edward was the first African-American
artist to receive a national award when he was named “Best Artist in America”
at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. His pastoral landscapes were
sought after paintings in their time and have been featured in major museum
exhibitions here in Providence and in New York City.
Christiana Carteaux Bannister, Edward’s wife, owned several
salons and wig-making factories in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. In the late
1800s Christiana was among Providence's most prominent civic leaders. In
addition to her success in business, she was a prominent philanthropist,
raising money for Civil War veterans and founding the Bannister Nursing Home to
serve indigent, elderly African-American women.
“Renaming Magee Street — currently named for a slave trading
opium dealer — to honor the Bannisters would recognize two underappreciated
historical figures,” said Rickman.