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

Photo exhibit of 54th Regiment on display in Boston

The city once again plans to celebrate African-American History month this February, with familiar events such as the Frederick Douglass Marathon. But this year, a one-of-a-kind event is coming to Boston’s Massachusetts Historical Society that some New Bedford residents won’t want to miss.

New Bedford was essential to making this exhibit happen.

“Everybody was immensely helpful to us,” said Sarah Greenough, head of the department of photographs at the National Gallery and a curator of the exhibit. “Our exhibition would have been much poorer without New Bedford.” read full story

Civil rights activist, author and journalist, Charlayne Hunter-Gault to speak here

200px-Charlayne_Hunter-GaultAbove all other days, Charlayne Hunter-Gault will never forget January 9, 1961. It was on that day, amid a torrent of insults and racial epithets, that she and Hamilton Holmes earned a place in American history when they became the first African American students to enroll at the University of Georgia in Athens after the school was forcibly desegregated. Days later, police with tear gas were called to disperse a mob gathered outside her dormitory. read full story