URI unveils sculpture of civil rights leader & first
director of University's successful minority program
KINGSTON, R.I. -- September 12, 2000 -- The cloth coverings were
lifted today, unveiling the impressive bronze sculpture of the Reverend
Arthur L. Hardge, a noted civil rights leader who helped improve the lives
and prospects of minorities living in Rhode Island.
The 6-foot artistic waist length interpretation of Hardge, dressed
in cleric clothes and holding a Bible, sits on a 6-foot pedestal on the
plaza in front of the Multicultural Center at the University of Rhode Island.
The sculpture was cast at the Paul King Foundry in Johnston. Minority
contractor Stan Cameron of Jain Corporation completed the first phase of
erecting the statue, the support base. The firm, New England Stone, LLC
of North Kingstown, created the pedestal which is made of granite.
The sculpture's location, in the heart of the URI campus, will make it
possible for much of the campus community to view it on a daily basis.
URI President Robert L. Carothers dedicated the sculpture and authored
the inscription of Hardge's life and legacy, which is engraved on a plaque
on the pedestal. (See attached.)
The statue was designed and executed by Arnold Prince, a distinguished
sculptor from Chaplin, Connecticut. The project was overseen by Robert
Dilworth, a faculty member in the URI Art Department.
A descendent of a man who had his fingers lopped off for teaching and
preaching, "the Rev," as Hardge was affectionately known, was
the first director of the Special Programs for Talent Development at the
URI. He died of heart disease in 1983.
The 31-year-old recruitment and retention program for disadvantaged students
and students of color have become the pride of the University. The program
began with 13 students and now enrolls 600. Its more than 1000 alumni have
careers in nearly every profession, including medicine, law, business, higher
education, and engineering.
The senior choir of the Community Baptist Church in Newport opened
the dedication with the hymn "We've Come This Far by Faith." The
Reverend Dr. Virgil Wood of the Ministers Alliance of Rhode Island gave
the blessing. The Reverend Dr.Elias Hardge Jr., Hardge's brother, gave the
benediction. Family friend Andrew Blunt from Georgia concluded the program
by singing "If I Can Help Somebody."
Carothers, who heads a private $35,000 fundraising effort for
the sculpture and its landscaped surrounding, donated the first $1,000 to
the fund. Gifts to support the project are still sought. Anyone wishing
to contribute may send their checks to the Hardge Memorial, payable to the
URI Foundation, 21 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, R.I. 02881-0810.
Hardge served in Zion churches in New York, Oklahoma, Connecticut and
Rhode Island. During the 1960s, his faith and activism took him to the forefront
of the Civil Rights struggle. He was arrested for civil disobedience several
times with other religious leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Hardge, especially active in the efforts to integrate the Tallahassee
Municipal Airport, was arrested and convicted in the Tallahassee Freedom
Ride and sentenced to 60 days on the Florida chain gang. After 10 days,
a judge released Hardge by reversing the sentence. The reverend would later
recount the Freedom Rides as a time when faith overcame fear.
In 1963, Hardge was named pastor of Hood Memorial AME Zion Church where
his civil rights activism intensified. He served as the first chairman of
the Rhode Island Chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Applying
the principles of non-violent civil disobedience, Hardge led a successful
movement to prod the General Assembly and the governor to pass the Rhode
Island Fair Housing Law.
Hardge served as the executive secretary of the Rhode Island Commission
Against Discrimination and became the first African-American gubernatorial
cabinet appointment when the then Gov. John Chafee named him director of
Hardge was a founding member of Opportunities Industrialization Center
(OIC) of Rhode Island. As chairman in 1967, he guided the organization from
its storefront existence in South Providence to a multi-faceted job training
and human resource center that provides services to thousands of people
of color and other disadvantaged persons.
In the wake of Dr. King's assassination in 1968, Hardge became the first
African-American administrator at URI, advocating for justice through education.
At OIC, Hardge met sculptor Arnold Prince who was an artist for the Rhode
Island Black Heritage Society, which had offices in the building. When the
idea of a sculpture was proposed, Professor Dilworth suggested Prince.
Prince was educated in the British West Indies and the Art Students League
of New York. He has taught sculpture since 1964. From 1972 to 1980, Prince
was an assistant professor of sculpture at the Rhode Island School of Design.
His work is represented in more than 100 private collections. Prince has
been a member of the Sculptors Guild of New York since 1969 and a member
of its board of directors since 1997.
To acknowledge his work, the Bannister Society which introduces art and
culture to the Rhode Island African American community, presented Prince,
with its LifeTime Achievement Award during the dedication ceremonies.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the assemblage walked to Edwards Auditorium
to hear Martin Luther King's widow, civil rights activist Coretta Scott
King, deliver URI's annual Convocation address which kicked off a semester-long
Honors Program public lecture series on nonviolence.
The inscription on the Hardge pedestal, written by URI President Robert
L. Carothers, reads:
This Memorial honors the life and work of the Reverend Arthur L. Hardge,
born in 1927, a man who led by serving his brothers and sisters until his
death in 1983. He was the child of many cultures: Africa, Europe and those
first Americans who lived on this land. The great grandson of a man who
had his fingers lopped off for teaching and preaching, Arthur Hardge had
a passion for learning that could not be so easily quelled.
Rev. Hardge was a minister from the age of seventeen. He was a leader
of the Civil Rights Movement, jailed in Florida for refusing to leave a
restaurant reserved for whites and later becoming the first black man in
Rhode Island to head a state agency, creating jobs and hope for those who
had little of either.
Building on a program established by Harold Langlois, and assisted by
Leo DiMaio, Rev. Hardge later founded the Special Programs for Talent Development
at the University of Rhode Island, in which "the Rev and Mr. D"
changed the lives of thousands of young men and women. From those whom
others gave no chance to succeed, Rev. Hardge built a new generation of
doctors and lawyers, teachers and nurses, leaders of business and government,
music and theater-the pride of this University. It was, he liked to say,
"always a pleasure."
In his name, we dedicate ourselves to justice, equality and opportunity
Dedicated September 12, 2000.
For Information: Jan Sawyer, 401-874-2116