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Longfellow and the Jewish Cemetery at Newport

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Birdseye View Map of Newport, R.I. 1878

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Birdseye View Map of Newport, R.I. 1878 / Maine Historical Society

<em>The trees are white with dust, that o'er their sleep
Wave their broad curtains in the south-wind's breath,
While underneath these leafy tents they keep
The long, mysterious Exodus of Death.</em>

At the time of Longfellow's Newport visit, it undoubtedly did seem strange to find a Jewish cemetery in the town. Newport had been financially devastated during the Revolution (when the British occupied the town, seizing ships and other resources).

After the successful resolution of the war, most prosperous merchants left for cities such as New York and Savannah, which by then had supplanted Newport as commercial centers.

The island community of Newport was left behind by the rapid forces of industrialization, and the successful Jewish merchants had moved on as well.

By the time of Longfellow's visit, there were very few Jews in the town, though their numbers would soon be increasing.


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