Current Program Activities 2014

  •  New Bedford and the Underground Railroad Presentation at the Civil War Round Table  
  • The Harpoon Project and the Legacy of Lewis Temple with UMass CVPA 
  •  14th Annual Frederick Douglass Community Read-a-thon
  • Movie “The Watsons Go To Birmingham” shown at New Bedford middle schools
  • Frederick Douglass in the Shadow of Slavery a performance by Mel Johnson, Jr. portraying Frederick Douglass’
  • Tours of the Nathan and Polly Johnson House, 17-21 Seventh Street, New Bedford
  • The Z From Page to Stage Book Club – Reading Frederick Douglass
  • New Bedford and the Underground Railroad presentation at Westport  
  • Film, “Over the River – Life of Lydia Maria Child, Abolitionist for Freedom”
  • ”Tell It With Pride: 54th Regiment Exhibit and Saint Gaudens’ Shaw Memorial”, member bus trip
  • World Book Night for Kids – Multi-cultural book give away and literacy activities  
  • Book Signing,  ”Gendered Resistance: Women, Slavery and the Legacy of Margaret Garner”, author Delores Walters
  • ”Our I-Dentities”- A Pan-Cultural Poetry Program, poets: Tony Medina, Everett Hoagland poets: Erik Andrade, Dawn Blake Souza, Lauren Daley, Ron Barboza, Gerald Bourassa, Megan Tench, Catherine McLaughlin, Letisha Imani Harris
  • ”Opening the Oyster”, A lecture on the fascinating history of Black Culinary traditions in the Region, with author Robb Dimmock
  • ”Dia Cultura de Capo Verde/Day of Cape Verdean Culture”, with story teller, Len Cabral.
  • Frederick Douglass Slept Here”, Tour of the Nathan & Polly Johnson House
  • Morgan Classroom projects with New Bedford Public Schools
  • Lecture – Frederick Douglass and New Bedford before the Civil War’
  • Book signing with Ron Coddington, author and historian, African American Faces of the Civil War: An Album
  • Children’s Book Authors James & Lesa Cline-Ramone Presentation to area schools, “Words Set me Free”   
  • ”To Serve Before The Mast: Recovering the Lost legacy of Black Seamen”, with authorLaShonda Barnett,
  • Emancipation and Its Legacies •Exhibit for the Charles W. Morgan Visit
  • Cape Verdean Recognition Week – Parade Sponsorship
  • Nzinga’s Daughters Songs of the Underground Railroad 
  • “Once an Islander: a memoir by Zack Souza”
  • Remembering Home: A Workshop for Older Adults with author Dawn Blake Souza




February 2010 Events

  • Frederick Douglass Birthday Bash! Click Here
  • Passages to Freedom: New Bedford and the Underground RailroadClick Here

The New Bedford Whaling National Historical Society Park offers HIDDEN HISTORY Summer Camp
Mon-Fri, July 26-30

A free one week summer camp experience for youth ages 10-12. Learn the history of New Bedford, the Underground Railroad and whaling through music, art,
crafts and field trips.
Students will enjoy fun activities including:
• Music and art classes on local culture
• Field trips to area museums
• Walking tour of the Underground Railroad and the Working Waterfront

Applications are due June 4th. Campers will be selected
through a lottery process and notified by June 11.
For more information contact the National Park at
(508) 996-4095 ext. 103


U*GRASP Underground Railroad After School Program
When Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey (Johnson) and his new spouse, Anna Murray , arrived in New Bedford, at the end of their journey to freedom, the Johnsons gave them comfort, housing, and a new surname; Douglass. This property is now the temporary headquarters of the New Bedford Historical Society and had been named a National Historic Landmark. Restoration and redevelopment plans have been completed and we intend to open an historic house museum with an emphasis on the story of the Underground Railroad and the interpretation of 19th century African American life.

We celebrate Frederick Douglass’ presence in New Bedford with an annual read- a -thon of a his first biography Life and Times of Frederick Douglass by himself. Held in the same Unitarian Church where Douglass found understanding and employment, the audience and participants usually include local and state politicians. Massachusetts State Senator Mark Montigny participated in our very first Douglass read a thon and became intrigued with the story of the Underground Railroad and New Bedford’s role in embracing fugitive slaves, especially one who became as notable as Frederick Douglass. Imagine our surprise when we were called and advised That the Senator had appropriated $75,000.00 to the New Bedford Historical Society to be used to tell the untold story of the Underground Railroad to local school children. We had from October to January to formulate a program that would be open to all interested students and fulfill criteria established by The Massachusetts Department of Education, as an after-school program. A formidable task, but like most grassroots organizations, our adrenaline peaked and with a visionary president at the helm, the Underground Railroad After School Program U*GRASP was born.

Eight elementary schools, one junior high school and our local high school accepted the challenge and 230 students attended the classes and field trips that included book making, quilts and their secret codes and symbols, mural painting , and computer classes in which the students developed a virtual Underground Railroad scavenger hunt. One industrious class produced a table top model of historic New Bedford that included the Johnson House and others in the area we have coined “Abolitionists’ Row”, because of the level of activity on this particular street.

February and April school vacations were used to introduce our youngsters to sites connected to the Underground Railroad, and we developed other workshops to reinforce the lessons being taught by U*GRASP teachers We also introduced our students to the music our African ancestors relied upon to send messages, throughout the ages, with the help of the music department of the University of Massachusetts/Dartmouth. Many of the children also learned to dance to the music of the Cape Verde Islands ( an archipelago located off the coast of Africa where many New Bedford whalers were recruited) A professor of physics at UMass Dartmouth took the time to explain the solar system ,and itís importance to fugitive slaves as they traversed toward freedom, to a group of youngsters that sat rapt with interest. Their beaming faces made this project a success and fueled the many who worked and volunteered. The students were also taught the symbols and codes in quilt squares that the formerly enslaved employed. This fascinating story was re created in all mediums, including the usual( fabric) and the unusual ( wallpaper samples) Many of them now see a star and automatically connect it to the North Star that the runaways used to determine the direction to Canada.

As an urban space, New Bedford battles the stigma that most cities fight. Kids from bordering rural and suburban areas often have stereotypes in their heads of what they will experience during a visit to our city. We were thrilled to co-host , with a private educational;; organization, SouthCoast Learning Network, a group of youngsters from a nearby farming community, Westport, Massachusetts. They spent a few days of their April vacation as tourists learning the splendid history of our city. We introduced them to the story of African Americans and the Underground Railroad not only on a short walking tour, but through t a delightful afternoon making paper quilts from wallpaper samples and discussing the secret code. To this end we have also sponsored a week end quilt workshop, facilitated by Dr. Raymond Dobard, co-author of Hidden In Plain View…A secret story of codes used in quilts and the Underground Railroad.

Our many other activities are also exciting since people of color are so tied to the history of New Bedford’s whaling industry. We endeavor to tell this story every day to every tourist or local who doesnít know that New Bedford whaling began with Wampanoag Indians and later relied upon men of color of all ethnicities to rein in the mighty leviathan that produced the oil that “lit the world”.

The New Bedford Historical Society, in its short life, has begun a mighty task; trying to unearth hidden stories in a compelling way to young people,( as well as adults), who will pass them on to future generations.