Black History Trail
New Bedford Underground Railroad Tour

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Riding the Train to Freedom,  
New Bedford and the Underground Railroad
, Teacher Curriculum

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Websites on Slavery and
the Underground Railroad

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The 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Plaza
(William St. and Acushnet Ave.)

On this site was the local recruiting station for the 54th Regiment. The first regiment of color commissioned in the North. Dedicated on February 12, 1999; This plaza commemorates the contribution of the Civil War’s 54th and the 55th Regiments, the 5th Calvary and the Navy men of color from New Bedford. A monument is planned for the future.

Liberty Bell Plaque
East wall of former Bay Bank, Purchase and William Streets

Liberty Hall once stood on this site. Inside the Hall was a bell which, during the 1850’s and 60’s was used to warn runaway slaves that the U.S. Marshals were approaching. Aaron Childs, an African-American, was one of the largest contributors to the bell.

Frederick Douglass Monument
William Street entrance to City Hall lawn

This monument is dedicated to Frederick Douglass and his wife Anna who escaped slavery by the underground railroad and made New Bedford their home for five years 1838-1843. Two of their children were born here, Rosetta (1839) and Lewis (1840). Dedicated on October 17, 1996, this monument commemorates the 100th anniversary of his death in 1895. Sponsored by the City of New Bedford and the New Bedford Chapter of the NAACP.

(Former) Frederick Douglass Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
William and Eighth Streets

This church was organized in 1850. It is believed this sect may have existed as far back as the 1830’s, and was the church Frederick Douglass and his family attended while he lived in New Bedford. The church was first known as the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In the 1930’s it was changed to the Douglass AME Zion Church. Many of New Bedford’s West Indian Community attended this church. In 1880 Nathan Johnson was buried from this church when it was known as the First Universalist Church. The first church was on the corner of Mechanics Lane and Eighth Street. This church became extinct in 1995. The present site is now known as Gallery X, an art gallery.

Historic Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church
County and Mill Streets

Initiated in 1822, this first church was built in 1842, but destroyed by fire in the 1850’s. After rebuilding, the church remained on Kempton Street until 1973 when it was purchased and demolished by the Redevelopment Authority. It is now housed in the former Christian Science Church building. The New England Conference was formed in this church. Several pastors of this church have become Bishops in this Sect. In the basement of this church is a mural depicting the history of the A.M.E. Church in America.

(Former) Second Baptist Church
Middle Street

This church was organized in 1844, after a number of members withdrew from the Third Christian Church, formerly the African Christian Church. Many outstanding African-Americans made up this church. The first pastor was Reverend Thomas U. Allen, Reverend William Jackson of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, became pastor in 1851 and then again in 1855-1858 when he and 90 members withdrew to form the Salem Baptist Church. This church closed in 1895, to join with Salem to become Union Baptist Church. This is the oldest African-American Church building in the area.

Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church Plaque
Kempton Street

Original site of the First Church, built in 1842.

Sergeant William H. Carney Memorial Homestead
128 Mill Street
William H. Carney Lodge #200
159 Mill Street

Built in 1850, this home was occupied by the Carney’s until 1939 when his daughter Clara, a music teacher, died. The home was then bought by the present owners, the Martha Briggs Educational Club, Inc. Mr. Carney, who died in 1908, was buried from this house after an elaborate funeral which was attended by local, state, and national figures. This house is also believed to have been used during the " underground railroad" when Mr. Carney’s in-laws, the Williams, lived there.

William H. Carney Lodge #200 Founded in 1915. Improved Benevolent Protective Order Elks of the World site includes Medal of Honor Plaque for Sergeant William H. Carney CMH at Cedar and Mill Streets.

United House of Prayer For All People
Kempton and Ash Streets

This Church was organized and built by Bishop Charles M. Grace. Born in the Cape Verde Islands, Bishop Grace came to New Bedford in 1903. He was lovingly known as Sweet Daddy Grace. Bishop Grace built several churches throughout the country. Before his untimely death in 1960, his church membership was believed to be over 3 million. The former church on this site was built in 1951and demolished in 1994 to make way for this new structure. Bishop Grace’s funeral from this church was the largest funeral ever held in New Bedford. Thousands came from all over the country to view his remains. The present structure was built in 1995 by Bishop C. Madison successor to the Late Bishop W. McCollough and was paid for in cash. Inside the church, its written history can be read on the stained glass windows.

Memorial Square Plaque
Cedar and Kempton Streets

This plaque was erected in 1980, by the 20th Century Club, Inc. It is in memory of the many Black Men and Women who contributed to the civic, cultural and social life of the community. For many years, this area was the Mecca of the African-American community.

James and Anna Reed Homestead
172 Arnold Street

Built in 1866, one of two octagon houses in the city, the Reed family occupied this home for 101 years. On March 17, 1991, they celebrated their 100th anniversary with an open house. Mr. Reed is the well-known African-American photographer of this city (1880-1914). His wife, Anna Jourdain Reed, studied at the Swain School of Design. She had colored and hand tinted her husband’s portraits and landscapes to give the impression of colored pictures. She also worked on Tiffany style lampshades for the Pairpoint Company of New Bedford. This property was sold by the family in 1991 and is now a private residence.

Union Baptist Church
Court and Cedar Streets

Built in 1897, this church is the result of the merging of Salem and Second Baptist Churches. Many of the furnishings in this church date back to the 1850’s, as they are furnishings from both churches. Reverend E. McDonald was the first pastor.

Martha and Henry Onley Homestead
147 Smith Street, Corner Cedar Street

Built in 1850 by the Onleys, this home was the focal point of African-American history and literature. The Martha Briggs Literary Society was organized here. The Onleys were a very religious family and very involved in the church. They helped organize the Salem Baptist Church. After Mr. Onley died in the late 1880’s, Mrs. Onley ran the household from the rents of the property she owned. This house was believed to be used during the "underground railroad". For forty years, this house was used by her grandson Charles Dudley Onley as a funeral home.

Reverend William Jackson Homestead
Smith and Chancery Streets

This is the home of Reverend William Jackson, pastor of the Second and founder of the Salem Baptist church. While pastor at the Salem Baptist Church, Reverend Jackson became chaplain of the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry in 1863. He later became Chaplain of the 55th and was believed to be the first African-American commissioned as an Officer in the Army. Reverend Jackson was a well-known agent for the "underground railroad" who harbored fugitive slaves in his home. This home is privately owned.

Our Lady of Assumption Church
Sixth and Cherry Streets

Organized in 1905, this was the first predominately Cape Verdean parish in the United States. This building was erected in 1957.

Monument to Black Service Men and Women
Rockdale Ave. & Court Street (Buttonwood Park)

Dedicated in 1976. The Nation’s Bicentennial Year, this monument is dedicated to all the Black Men and Women who served in our armed services and fought for this nation’s freedom.

Memorial Square Cape Verdean American Veterans
County and Washington Streets

This monument is dedicated to all Cape Verdean Veterans. Dedicated November 15, 1970

Monte Playground
Acushnet Ave. and the Manuel E. Costa Sr. Way

This playground, the former site of the New Bedford Vocational School and the mecca of the Cape Verdean community, is named for Joseph P. Monte who fought in World War I and who was one of the first Cape Verdeans to receive the Purple Heart Medal (1935). There is a monument in the entrance of the playground. This playground was dedicated on November 11, 1938. Sponsored by the Cape Verdean Veterans and the American Legion.

The Manuel E. Costa Sr. Way
(Acushnet Avenue)

was dedicated on July 5, 1998 (Cape Verdean Recognition Day) in memory of the late Manuel "Manny" E. Costa Sr., a civil rights leader in the city of New Bedford since the 1940’s and especially through the tumultuous 1960’s and 1970’s in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Manuel E. Costa Sr. was also recognized by the government of Cabo Verde for his successful participation in the struggle for Cape Verdean Independence. Manuel E. Costa Sr., a four-letter man at both Brown and Lincoln Universities, excelled in all sports, and in the 1940’s and 1950’s coached and guided many of the youths in New Bedford. He became a highly respected spokesman for the underprivileged and low-income residents of the city of New Bedford.

Honorable Rodney French Plaque
Rodney French Blvd. (Hazelwood Park)

This plaque and monument was erected by the African-American citizens of New Bedford in honor of former Mayor Rodney French (1853-1854) who fought the causes of slavery and for freedom. The present plaque was put up by the school children of New Bedford when they learned the original plaque was removed by vandals.


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