New Bedford Is Forever a Safe Harbor for Freedom
It used to be that when you'd look at maps of the Underground Railroad, New Bedford was unaccounted for. New Bedford Historical Society President Lee Blake worked very hard, and is solely responsible for getting New Bedford on every historic map, so as to share the local stories of freeing fugitive slaves.
There's something else new that's about to go on all the maps: a new, extraordinary second historic district.
"The new Abolition Row Historic District, will cover from Spring Street and Seventh, all the way to the Rotch Jones Duff House on Walnut Street, totaling four to five city blocks," Blake said. "Within the new district, there's Abolition Row Park, along with 19 historic homes, all looking great, that will tell the story of New Bedford's maritime abolition movement, and the African American community's work to end slavery in New Bedford."
"Few are aware that buccaneer captains from New Bedford made a lifetime commitment to transport and rescue runaway slaves," said Joe Thomas, Publisher of Spinner Publications. "We should take advantage of our local history and celebrate it the way Philadelphia has gone a long way to herald their city and its role in abolitionism."
This year will feature a focus on New Bedford's role in the abolitionist movement.
"We have some exciting things coming to New Bedford. This May, an extraordinary exhibit will be displayed at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, showing pictures of slaves who came here via the Underground Railroad and the maritime trades," Blake said. "And then in September, in cooperation with UMass Dartmouth, I'm hosting a Sailing to Freedom Conference, bringing scholars from around the country who contributed in writing the book Sailing to Freedom, who'll discuss the importance of the maritime Underground Railroad in New Bedford."
Then, she added a surprise.
"Spinner and NBHS are in the midst of writing a new book to be launched later this year titled New Bedford's Hidden Black History: Stories of Freedom and Deliverance,'" she said.
Spinner Publications and the New Bedford Historic Society have also just announced a beautiful calendar, from February 2022 to February 2023, featuring one-of-a-kind images of the Black community from 1870 to the 1940s. It features photos and stories never seen or heard before. Order the calendar through Spinner Publications.
"Escaped slaves came to New Bedford by the droves, because the whaling industry had plenty of work for them," Blake said.
The story of New Bedford's maritime and land abolition movement is one of the greatest stories about ending slavery.
"If you think about it," mused Blake, "The Underground Railroad was the first integrated human rights movement."