Legislation to rename Magee Street in Providence’s College Hill neighborhood to Bannister Street has been introduced by City Councilman Sam Zurier, a Democrat who represents the neighborhood.
The measure would change the street named for 19th century Providence slave trader William Fairchild Magee to one honoring two of that era’s leading African-American citizens – Christiana and Edward Bannister.
Christiana Bannister was a business leader and philanthropist and Edward was a celebrated painter.
“By renaming Magee Street to Bannister Street, the city can give two African-American luminaries the recognition they deserve,” said Ray Rickman, a former state representative from the East Side and historian, who is advocating for the change.
Edward Mitchell Bannister was welcomed by Providence when he arrived in the city in 1870 after spending time in Boston and Canada. In 1876, he became the first African-American artist to receive a national award when he was named “Best Artist in America” at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. He was known for pastoral landscapes. Bannister’s paintings have been featured in major museum exhibitions in Providence and New York.
“Renaming Magee Street – currently named for a slave-trading opium dealer – to honor the Bannisters would recognize two underappreciated historical figures,’ said Rickman.
Magee Street covers just one block near the Brown University campus, where the Brown Faculty Club sits. The short road connects Benevolent and George Streets.