Make Time to Experience New Bedford’s Abolition Row Park
Like many folks in New Bedford, I am a born skeptic. It said that folks around these parts don't truly appreciate the finer things they have like someone might from the outside. I find this to be true.
For example, many of us have been guilty of underappreciating or even taking for granted the remarkable New Bedford Whaling Museum, the working New Bedford waterfront, and even our rich and varied culture. These are the things that draw visitors to our city every year.
In 1866, the New Bedford Civil War Memorial was erected at what we now call Clasky Common Park. The monument was dedicated on July 4, 1866, and includes the inscription; "Erected by the City of New Bedford as a tribute of gratitude to her sons who fell defending their country in the struggle with slavery and treason."
It took many years for New Bedford to fully appreciate and even understand its role in this nation's abolitionist movement, but suddenly that spirit was alive.
In June 2023, the City of New Bedford opened Abolition Row Park, the centerpiece of the new Abolition Row Historic District.
Abolition Row Park at Seventh and Spring Streets features a statue of Frederick Douglass, who escaped slavery in Maryland and found freedom in New Bedford.
During dedication ceremonies, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said that while Douglass lived in many locations during his life, it was in New Bedford "where he became the Frederick Douglass known to history, where he spread his wings, where he became a free man, where he started a family."
Abolition Row Park is across the street from the Nathan and Polly Johnson House at 21 Seventh Street, where Douglass spent his first years living as a free man.
This skeptic visited Abolition Row Park on a recent day off and left a believer in New Bedford's commitment to celebrating this often-ignored part of its history.
The New Bedford Historical Society's website has a presentation about Abolition Row Park and New Bedford's role in the abolition movement.
Additional photos from New Bedford's Abolition Row Park: