NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — The city of New Bedford has ties to one of the most notable men of the 19th century.
Abolitionist Frederick Douglass escaped slavery in 1838 and traveled north from Maryland to begin a new life.
He took up residence in the Johnson House, eventually calling New Bedford his new home.
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Historian Lee Blake has dedicated his life to researching Douglass’ life and legacy. He gave Eyewitness News an inside look of the Johnson House on Wednesday.
“We spend a lot of time talking about Douglass because he’s like the first civil rights crusader,” Blake said. “One of the wonderful things about this is to be able to research and be able to tell the stories about these people who overcame things to have a good life.”
Pictures chronicling Douglass’ life in New Bedford are displayed throughout the Johnson House, shedding light on his impact in the community.
Douglass rose to prominence through his work as a speaker and political figure.
“His passion becomes, he had to work hard to free other people like him,” Blake said. “Human rights around the world, women’s rights, African American rights and rights of the underdog.”
Douglass wore many hats and held many jobs while living in New Bedford. Douglass did everything he could to make the world a better place, according to Blake.
On last week’s edition of Newsmakers, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell spoke to Douglass’ lasting impact on the city.
“We talk about Martin Luther King, Gandhi, but Frederick Douglass is also one of those people also,” Mitchell said. “Somebody who laid the foundation for some of the struggles we’re continuing to fight and moving forward.”
For anyone who’d like to learn more about Douglass, the Johnson House provides tours year-round. On the second Thursday of each month from April to October, there are also programs about Douglass in the greater New Bedford area.