Abolition Row Park in New Bedford may be small, but the message it sends is mighty.  The message, of course, is freedom.

It's a dream come true for Lee Blake of the New Bedford Historical Society, who hoped to create a way to honor the city's abolitionist movement, helping escaped slaves find freedom during the 1800s.

Blake joined Townsquare Sunday this week to discuss her vision for the park and recognize those who helped make it a reality.

"We are so excited we are able to open a new park for the city to enjoy. and for young people to learn another aspect of New Bedford's history," she said.

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The park recognizes the work of New Bedford's abolitionist community, which in the 1800s helped escaped slaves who arrived in the city through the Underground Railroad find a path to freedom.

The park also features a statue of young Frederick Douglass, who worked on the docks after arriving in New Bedford at the age of 20. Douglass lived with his wife across the street from the new park, in the Nathan and Polly Johnson House.

Contributed Photo
Contributed Photo

Blake wrote grants to secure funding for the project, but she didn't do it alone. She said she worked with city and state governments and elected state officials to pull together the funds to build the park.

There were complications, including COVID, which slowed the process, but she said"it really made us understand how important it is to be persistent in your vision."

Blake believes the park will be a tourist destination in its own right, but also a place to educate city residents and children about a forgotten part of New Bedford history. 

Contributed photo
Contributed Photo

The park is also part of a new Seventh Street Historic District in New Bedford.

"The park is surrounded by three different houses and spaces that are all on the National Historic Registry," Blake said. "You don't want those houses to just sit there, you want to weave them together to tell a new story, a story that has been undertold and not appreciated much by people who focused on the history of white people."

The complete interview with Lee Blake of the New Bedford Historical Society can be heard here:

Townsquare Sunday is a weekly community affairs prrogram highlighting individuals and organizations seeking to make the SouthCoast a better place to live and work.

The program airs Sundays at 6 a.m. and 11 a.m. on WBSM.

If you would like to highlight your organization on Townsquare Sunday, please email the host at jim.phillips@townsquaremedia.com.

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