Black History and New Bedford, MA
It’s Black History month! New Bedford has very strong ties to anti-slavery activist Frederick Douglass. Douglass was born into slavery but was able to escape Maryland and find freedom in Massachusetts. He wanted to go to New Bedford, knowing that the booming whaling industry would have use of his trade- caulking. In 1838, Frederick Douglass and his new wife Anna arrived in New Bedford and were welcomed into the home of African-American abolitionists Nathan and Polly Johnson. The Johnson house- located on 21 Seventh St, became the place that Douglass developed his skills as a powerful anti-slavery orator. Douglass even registered to vote.
After staying with the Johnson’s for a year, Frederick and Anna moved into their second New Bedford residency on 157 Elm Street. In 1841, they moved their growing family to 111 Ray St. (Now Acushnet Avenue). Douglass went to on to travel the county and become an influential speaker and writer.
The Nathan and Polly Johnson home had been converted into five single-occupancy apartments before being purchased by the New Bedford Historical Society, with assistance from the Waterfront Historic Area League (Whale), and the Massachusetts Historical Commission in December 1998.