“Traveling” the Underground Railroad in New Bedford City collaborative gets federal grant to teach teachers

NEW BEDFORD — Teachers across the United States are already circling the month of July 2011 on their calendars.

That’s when they’ll have a chance to come to New Bedford to learn about the city’s important historical role in the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad.

The opportunity is being made possible through an award from the National Endowment for the Humanities Landmarks of American History and Culture program. “Sailing to Freedom: New Bedford and the Underground Railroad” is a collaborative project between the University of Mass. Dartmouth, the New Bedford Historical Society, the New Bedford Whaling Museum, the Rotch Jones Duff Museum and the National Whaling Historical Park.

The project will tell the story of African-Americans, the maritime trades and the abolitionist movement in New Bedford between 1800–1865.

The competitive $177,000 award is part of the NEH’s “We the People program and will be led by Dr. Timothy Walker, UMass Dartmouth professor of history, and Lee Blake, director of the campus compact and president of the New Bedford Historical Society.

The Landmarks of American History and Culture grants support a series of one-week workshops for K-12 educators that address central themes and topics in American history, government, literature, art history, and other humanities fields related to historic landmarks.

According to organizers, these workshops provide the opportunity for K-12 educators “to engage in intensive study and discussion of important topics in American history and culture and provide participants with direct experiences in the interpretation of significant historical and cultural sites and the use of archival and other primary evidence.”

Timothy Walker, who will be leading the workshop series, said “Sailing to Freedom: New Bedford and the Underground Railroad” offers an excellent opportunity to showcase an under-appreciated dimension of New Bedford’s distinguished historical legacy, highlighting the community’s significant role in advancing African Americans’ long quest for freedom and equality.

For teachers learning about the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad, New Bedford, “with its unparalleled museum resources, historic architecture, and extraordinary archival collections, is a microcosm of American history, packed for easy access into a few square city blocks.”

Lee Blake, president of the New Bedford Historical Society, underscored that “Sailing to Freedom is a wonderful collaboration between the University, the Center for University, School and Community Partnerships, the New Bedford Historical Society and other New Bedford cultural institutions.”

Said Blake, “Our cultural institutions are all working together to share the importance of the history of the city’s African American community, their role in the Underground Railroad and its impact on the entire country to teachers who will share this aspect of our collective history with their students.”

The workshop will bring nationally well-known scholars on the Underground Railroad, the maritime trades and African American struggles for freedom before the Civil War to the city.

“Sailing to Freedom” workshop leaders will include Dr. Len Travers, professor and Chair of the UMass Dartmouth History Department; Everett Hoagland, UMass Dartmouth English professor emeritus, poet laureate and; Kathryn Grover, author of Make a Way Somehow: African-American Life in a Northern Community and The Fugitive’s Gibraltar: Escaping Slaves and Abolitionism in New Bedford, Massachusetts; Dr. W. Jeffrey Bolster, associate professor of history, University of New Hampshire; David Cecelski, author of The Watermen’s Song: Slavery and Freedom in Maritime North Carolina; Dr. Laurie Robertson-Lorant, assistant professor of Education at UMass Dartmouth; Dr. Darrel Hoagland, K-12 educator; Dr. Norman Barber, assistant professor of African and African American Studies, University of Rhode Island; Michael Dyer, Maritime Curator, New Bedford Whaling Museum; Paul Cyr, archivist of the New Bedford Free Public Library; and Cynthia Barber, Curator of Architecture and Design, the Rotch-Jones-Duff House.

A total of 80 teacher participants will be selected from a pool of national applicants. Teachers selected for the workshop receive a stipend of $1,200 for the week to cover travel and lodging expenses.

The Sailing to Freedom series of workshops will be offered twice this summer, July 17-22 and July 24–29, 2011. Teachers will be able to apply to either week. Further application information will become available at www.umassd.edu/undergroundrailroad at the end of November.

September 20, 2010 6:36 PM

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