UMass Dartmouth MLK breakfast to feature author and actress Donzaleigh Abernathy Feb. 1

Governor’s special advisor on education Dana Mohler-Faria, former Student Affairs Vice Chancellor Sue Costa, and New Bedford Historical Society to be honored.
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New President / New Position Formed

Loretta “Lee” Blake was installed as the president at our last annual meeting. Joan Beaubian, is passing the baton of leadership to Loretta “Lee” Blake. After many years as President of the New Bedford Historical Society, Joan is moving into the new position of Executive Director.

Lee has been serving as Vice President for four years. In this time, Lee has written grants that have garnered almost $200,00.00 and as chairperson of the programming committee, she established the annual Frederick Douglass Read-a-thon, the Hidden History programs for local students and was responsible for most of the lectures, book signings and teacher workshops offered by the Society.

Lee, a native of New Bedford is a consultant for the Connecting Oceans Academy. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Sociology with a minor in African American and Women’s Studies from the University of Massachusetts and is working toward a Masters in Urban Policy. She has been an education administrator and teacher for 30 years and has taught at the high school and university level. She was the Director of Educational Services for the Cityof New York, serving in the office of Mayor David Dinkins.

Currently, Lee is the Director of the SouthCoast Educational Compact at University of MA at Dartmouth , a school, university and business partnership working to support public education in New Bedford.

NBHS Receives 2 Preservation Awards

WHALE and the New Bedford Preservation Society recognized the preservation efforts of the Society with awards for the Nathan and Polly Johnson House The Sarah R. Delano Preservation Awards are given annually by WHALE (Waterfront Historic Area LeaguE) to New Bedford area individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to the rehabilitation, restoration and interpretation of the historic character and environment of Greater New Bedford.

The New Bedford Preservation Society awards and plaques are also presented annually to restoration projects in New Bedford that enhance and impact Historic New Bedford.

New Bedford Historical Society Scores at Celtics game from Ronald McDonald House Charities

L-R: Edie Stevenson: Executive Director of Ronald McDonald House charities; Ronald McDonald; Guy Shepherd, Vice President , New Bedford Historical Society and Charlie Winterhalter, President; Ronald McDonald House Charities of Eastern New England and McDonald’s owner/operator

The Ronald McDonald House Charirities(RHMC)) of Eastern New England presented a $15,000 grant on the court during half time at a recent Celtics game This grant will be used to expand the “Hidden History” program (see below) which includes storytellers, field trips and presentations to middle and high school students on Saturday mornings at the New Bedford Friends’ Meeting House.

Since it began in 1986, RMHC of Eastern New England has awarded over $12 million to more than 1,000 non profit organizations and programs helping thousands of children and families. Grants also support the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile and the Ronald McDonald Houses in Boston and Providence, which provide a home away from home to the families of seriously ill children receiving treatment at nearby hospitals.

Hidden History taught at Saturday Academy

Jonathan Perry, Native American historian, and students discussing Native American artifacts

Every Saturday morning , a group of about 10-12 local students spent the morning learning about the “Hidden History” of our ancestors.

This program will reconvene in September and we invite you to sign up your students from 9 –14 years of age. The classes are held at the Friends’ Meeting House on Spring Street

Our object is to create a sense of cultural pride as well as tolerance and appreciation of others. They will learn about our rich cultural traditions through Art, music and field trips. This year, we have planned projects to build storytelling and oral history skills. The outcome is expected to be a video and /or a play.

Douglass read-athon is rewarding, students say

This weekend, the 12th annual Frederick Douglass Community Read-athon may have fierce competition with SuperBowl pre-parties. But one group of SouthCoast kids in their pre-teens and early teens say they’re taking part in by far the most rewarding event of the year.

Reading the 1845 published autobiography, “Of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave Written by Himself,” from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday — just before the Giants and Patriots clash in Indianapolis — will be 13-year-old Manuel Sequeira, an eighth grader at Keith Middle School; 11-year-old Elena Bartolomey, sixth grader at Our Sisters’ School; 12-year-old Anaelle Ndoye, seventh grader at Westport Middle School; and 10-year-old Destine Haywood-Gomes, who goes to school in Wareham.

Anaelle and Elena are reading for the first time. Destine is back for the second year. And Manuel — or “Manny” — has been reading since he was just 7, a distinction that coordinator Laurie Robertson-Lorant remembers well about the precocious young man, whom she met through Shelley Correia of Harbour House. read full story

Your View: The Pats’ loss aside, Francis’ announcement on Douglass was truly Super

It is entirely understandable that the obligatory, pervasive coverage of our Super Sunday letdown overshadowed an important announcement by Superintendent Mary Louise Francis at this past Sunday’s annual Douglass Readathon.

She publicly announced that, finally, Frederick Douglass’ first autobiography, his 1845 “Narrative of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself,” shall henceforth be mandatory reading and study for New Bedford’s public middle school and/or public high school students.

Douglass escaped from slavery in Maryland to freedom in New Bedford, where he resided and worked for several years. And New Bedford was where he became a lay AME preacher, honed his eventually legendary public speaking skills, and first developed an abolitionist consciousness. He went on to become America’s most famous 19th century human rights activist, one of the 19th century’s greatest orators and nonfiction authors, the 19th century’s most prominent and influential African-American, and one of that century’s most outstanding and exemplary people — period. read full story

New Bedford’s Johnson House is Historic Treasure Trove

NEW BEDFORD — It has been almost 175 years since abolitionist Frederick Douglass arrived at 21 Seventh St. in 1838, but thanks to a renovation project by the New Bedford Historical Society, visitors will soon have a better idea of where Douglass lived in his first months of freedom.

Standing in the kitchen of the Nathan and Polly Johnson House one recent afternoon, Historical Society president Lee Blake described how more than 800 pounds of wood were removed from the kitchen floor of the house to reveal the original wood floor. Read more

Tiny Maryland school linked to city educator’s great-grandmother

Retired educator Dawn Blake Souza said she has always been inspired by her great-grandmother, a teacher who taught freed slaves in Maryland.

Now Souza has brought that family legacy full circle through a recent trip to the schoolhouse where her ancestor first taught.

Souza said throughout her life, she had been told about the career of Emma Louise Piper. “She was my inspiration when I was a little girl to become a teacher,” she said.

That inspiration propelled Souza through a teaching career that took her as far as Arizona and ended with a position as principal of New Bedford’s Campbell School. And throughout it all, she longed to know more details about Piper’s life. read full story

Michelle Obama recognizes New Bedford Historical Society

The New Bedford Historical Society was recently named a “Preserve America Steward” by first lady Michelle Obama for the organization’s work restoring the Nathan and Mary Johnson house.

The Preserve America Steward program was started in 2008 and honors volunteer efforts that have helped to preserve and care for the country’s cultural heritage.

New Bedford Historical Society president Lee Blake said she hoped the designation would help highlight the city’s role in the life of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who stayed with Nathan and Mary Johnson upon arriving in the city in 1838. read full story