New Bedford Historical Society wins grant for Johnson House

NEW BEDFORD — The 1772 Foundation, a national foundation focused on historic preservation and interpretation of historic sites, has awarded the New Bedford Historical Society a $25,000 grant for capital improvements on the Nathan and Mary Johnson House as part of the African-American Historic Sites initiative.
According to a press release from the Historical Society, the 1772 funds will support the physical restoration of the interior of the main floor and basement of the Johnson House to support a visitor center and exhibit and interpretive space to highlight the role of the Johnsons and other New Bedford abolitionists in the Underground Railroad.
New interpretive programs will contribute to a deeper understanding of the Underground Railroad in New Bedford and the lives of the free African-American population of the city before the Civil War, officials said.
The Nathan and Mary Johnson House is a National Historic Landmark and is owned and operated by the New Bedford Historical Society. The site tells important stories about the resistance to Fugitive Slave laws and the manner in which abolitionists, both black and white, fought to eradicate slavery while providing a route to freedom for those enslaved. The house is notable as a safe house for at least seven documented fugitives, including Frederick and Anna Douglass.
Society officials said the grant funds will “greatly enhance their ability to tell the story of these courageous men and women who worked to liberate enslaved persons and assisted them in starting new lives in freedom.”
The 1772 Foundation is a major supporter of and works in cooperation with the Northeast African-American Historic Sites initiative of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Historical Society is an active member of the NTHP African-American Sites initiative.
The grant was made as part of a cooperative initiative with the Northeast African-American Historic Sites of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
“Without organizations like the New Bedford Historical Society, communities and towns across America would have a diminished sense of place,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “The society will use the funds to help preserve an important piece of our shared heritage.”
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September 12, 2011
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