How do you deal with the lack of recognition at work? The short answer is to remind your boss how important you are. Take that principle and apply it to local historical figure Paul Cuffe, the noted businessman, whaler and abolitionist born of an African father and a Wampanoag mother in 1759.

"People around here know Paul Cuffe a bit, but he's not well known outside of this area. He's under appreciated and not regarded properly," said Joe Thomas, publisher of Spinner Publications, and one of the most well-informed and historically accurate editors.

A free series of panel and community discussions of Paul Cuffe and Frederick Douglass titled Cuffe & Douglass: A Reckoning of Activism will take place Sunday, May 8 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Gallery X, located at 169 William Street in New Bedford.

It will examine the lives and legacies of these two great figures of color.

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"Some scholars are not looking at Cuffe as an important abolitionist, so we wanted to compare them and talk about them and the context of their work," Thomas said. "Each lived in a different time, but still had close connections to New Bedford in similar, as well as disagreeing ways."

Thomas said a distinguished group of presenters will be on hand.

"Speakers include the author of our forthcoming biography on Paul Cuffe, Lamont D. Thomas, who'll be headlining the panel, along with New Bedford Historical Society President Lee Blake, and Elizabeth James-Perry, researcher, visual artist, and a Wampanoag and Cuffe descendent," he said.

While most people are familiar of the abolitionist work of Douglass, Cuffe was an activist of a different sort.

"He was immensely successful as an entrepreneur in the ship building industry who influenced other Black people that anything was possible to achieve, and then used his own example as a model," Thomas said. "Douglass was more of a statesman and inspirational speaker. We'll examine the two different styles of activism at the first installment of the Paul Cuffe Discussion Series, in four grant-funded, paneled discussions on the SouthCoast."

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Many of the speakers had a lifetime commitment to human rights, but one tried to silence an activist lobbying for voting rights, before later signing off on major civil rights legislation. Several fought for freedom for more than one oppressed group.

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