Wednesday, June 27, 2018

What I learned at the Block Island Historical Museum

Block Island Historical Museum

I never thought Rick and I would turn into the kind of people who would return to the same vacation spot every year, but we have fallen in love with Block Island. This year’s house was in remote location on Mohegan Bluffs accessible only by extremely narrow dirt roads. It was worth the struggle with the dirt roads for the ocean views.

This year we did something we’ve been planning to do for many years, but never got around to. We took advantage of our one rainy day to visit Block Island Historical museum.It is definitely worth a visit for a fascinating glimpse into island life back in the 17thc.

In 1662, natives on the island numbered somewhere from 1,200 to 1,500. By 1774, that number had been reduced to fifty-one. When I asked what had happened to the dwindling native population, I was told they merged with the native African population. When I asked if the Africans were enslaved, the answer was a reluctant yes. So even idyllic Block Island shares the country’s ugly history of of slavery and the reluctance to acknowledge it. There is not a word about enslaved persons at Block Island Historical Museum.

I also learned that Block Island’s harbor was not a natural harbor but was built by the federal government. The harbor had a major economic impact leading to the growth of large hotels and the expansion of the tourist industry—-an example of government expenditures leading to economic development. My guess is that there are many projects around the country that have made a major impact on the local economy and are now just thought of as having always been there, with the government’s role completely forgotten.

We’re happy we finally got around to visiting Block Island Historical museum!