Posts Tagged New Bedford

Brief note on radical abolitionists and UGRR conductors Rev. Leonard A. Grimes (1815 – 1873) & Frederick Douglass

A plaque at 22nd & H Street NW recognizes Rev. Grimes. Photo by author.

At the northeast corner of 22nd & H Street NW, within the campus of George Washington University, rests a plaque recognizing Rev. Leonard A. Grimes, an abolitionist, conductor on the Underground Railroad, recruiter for the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and confidant of Frederick Douglass.

In 2007 the plaque was installed to recognize the corner as being the residence of Rev. Grimes from 1836 to 1846.

According to the National Park Service:

“[Grimes] became a hackman in the District of Columbia and discovered that his profession provided the perfect cover for such illegal activity. He contributed to an unknown number of escapes before he was finally arrested and convicted,”

Reverend Leonard Grimes, abolitionist, conductor on the Underground Railroad, and first pastor of Twelfth Baptist Church ("The Fugitives Church"), Boston) - G.H. Loomis, cartes de visite, 7 LCCN2017660624 (cropped).jpgFollowing his release from prison in Virginia for aiding fugitive slaves, Grimes moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where the Douglass family was well-known.

During the early 1850s Rev. Grimes played a pivotal role in the fugitive slave case of Anthony Burns, which was a national and international news sensation.

An 1856 account of the case says thusly:

The extradition of Anthony Burns as a fugitive slave was the most memorable case of the kind that has occurred since the adoption of the Federal Constitution. It was memorable for the place and for the time of its occurrence; the place being the ancient and chief seat of Liberty in America, and the time being just the moment when the cause of Liberty bad received a most wicked and crushing blow from the hand of the Federal Government. It was memorable also for the difficulty with which it was accomplished, for the intense popular excitement which it caused, for the unexampled expense which it entailed, for the grave questions of law which it involved, for the punishment which it brought down upon the head of the chief actor, and for the political revolution which it drew on.

The Rev. L. A. Grimes bore a large share in the transactions here narrated, and I have relied chiefly upon his authority in recounting such matters as came within his personal cognizance.

Rev. Grimes and Frederick Douglass shared the same cause and united in the same spaces several times before Grimes passed in 1873.


“Emancipation Day in Boston.” The Liberator, 16 January, 1863. p 4.

In January of 1863 Douglass and Grimes, as well as countless abolitionists and reformists, shared the stage at Tremont Temple in Boston to recognize the issuance of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

Grimes and Douglass, and others, would subsequently activate their networks to advocate for the enlistment of “Colored Troops” in the Union war effort, specifically the Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Infantry.

In order to move beyond the limiting mythology and incomplete scholarship that has restrained Douglassonian Studies from developing an infrastructure similar to that which exists for Mark Twain or Abraham Lincoln, we must begin to elevate the networks and associations of all those who worked on the front lines to abolish the institution of slavery and advocate for greater reforms of equality and Civil Rights for all.



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Artists wanted to create Frederick Douglass memorial in New Bedford (deadline May 31, 2019, sponsored by New Bedford Historical Society)

Before the Frederick Douglass statue at One Judiciary Square moves to the US Capitol he takes time to read a new book about his life and times in Anacostia. Photo_ John MullerNEW BEDFORD — The New Bedford Historical Society and the Frederick Douglass Memorial Committee are calling on artists, artisans or artist-lead-teams to create a permanent original artwork of a young Frederick Douglass.

The sculpture will celebrate Douglass through the creation of a timeless and permanent art sculpture of high artistic merit and quality. It is in New Bedford that a young Douglass found his voice as an abolitionist and human rights advocate. The sculpture will be placed in Abolition Row Park that will also celebrate the New Bedford abolitionists who through their advocacy and perseverance changed the thinking of many and led to the movement to end slavery in the United States, according to a news release.

The park will be completed in summer 2020, and the Douglass sculpture will be a center piece in Abolition Row Park. The committee is seeking a bronze representative image of a young Douglass sitting on a park bench that will face the Nathan and Mary Johnson House, 21 Seventh St.

Interested artists should submit eight slides or photos of successful examples of completed public art, a resume, and an artist statement by May 31. Once qualifications are reviewed, semi-finalists will be invited and offered a stipend to submit full project proposals for a sculpture design.

Artist Eligibility

The project is open to all professional artists or artist teams in the United States. Artists/artist teams should have experience implementing their ideas and work in the public realm with community organizations and government agencies. Artist/artist teams must be able to effectively work within the project timeline and collaborate with the architects of record, general contractors, multiple governmental agencies, community groups, city officials and the Douglass Memorial Committee whenever it is required. Artists are NOT eligible who are immediate family or business partners of members of the Douglass Memorial Committee, city staff or program administrators.

Selection Process

The Douglass Memorial Committee will manage the application process and review the proposals. The committee includes arts professionals, community representatives, and city staff. The committee will review the submissions and invite a short list of up to five semi-finalists to be interviewed.

Each semi-finalist will be awarded a $1,500 stipend for development of a proposal, travel and overnight accommodations for presentation to the Memorial Committee. The committee will make a recommendation based on its evaluation of the artwork proposal, experience of artist and references. The Memorial Committee and the New Bedford Historical Society will make the final award to the selected artist. The committee reserves the right to withhold the commission award if it should not find a satisfactory artwork.

Criteria for Selecting Proposals

    1. Artistic merit of concept.
    1. Sculpture will be representative of a young Douglass sitting on a park bench. The style and appropriateness of the artwork should demonstrate that it is compatible in relationship to the landscape and New Bedford community.
    1. Technical Considerations and Feasibility: Including the artist’s artistic history and experience in completing public art projects within the timeline and budget, as well as the sustainability of the project.
    1. Safety and Maintenance: Artwork should be durable, meet the requirements of insurance policies and be resistant to theft and/or vandalism. Materials should require minimal periodic maintenance and be readily available if conservation or restoration is necessary.
    1. Diversity: Reflects the overall project goal to strive for diversity in style, scale, media and artists working in traditional and contemporary art forms.

All items become the property of the New Bedford Historical Society.

For all questions and additional information, email Lee Blake, President,

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Frederick Douglass’ days as a preacher “among the happiest days of my life”

Metropolitan AME Church, 1518 M Street NW


My connection with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church began in 1838. This was soon after my escape from slavery and my arrival in New Bedford. Before leaving Maryland I was a member of the Methodist Church in Dallas Street, Baltimore, and should have joined a branch of that Church in New Bedford, Mass., had I not discovered the spirit of prejudice and the unholy connection of that Church with slavery. Hence I joined a little branch of Zion, of which Rev. William Serrington was the minister. I found him a man of deep piety, and of high intelligence. His character attracted me, and I received from him much excellent advice and brotherly sympathy. When he was removed to another station Bishop Rush sent us a very different man, in the person of Rev. Peter Ross, a man of high character, but of very little education. After him came Rev. Thomas James. I was deeply interested not only in these ministers, but also in Revs. Jehill Beman, Dempsy Kennedy, John P. Thompson, and Leven Smith, all of whom visited and preached in the little schoolhouse on Second Street, New Bedford, while I resided there. My acquaintance with Bishop Rush was also formed while I was in New Bedford.

It is impossible for me to tell how far my connection with these devoted men influenced my career. As early as 1839 I obtained a license from the Quarterly Conference as a local preacher, and often occupied the pulpit by request of the preacher in charge. No doubt that the exercise of my gifts in this vocation, and my association with the excellent men to whom I have referred, helped to prepare me for the wider sphere of usefulness which I have since occupied. It was from this Zion church that I went forth to the work of delivering my brethren from bondage, and this new vocation, which separated me from New Bedford and finally so enlarged my views of duty, separated me also from the calling of a local preacher. My connection with the little church continued long after I was in the antislavery field. I look back to the days I spent in little Zion, New Bedford, in the several capacities of sexton, steward, class leader, clerk, and local preacher, as among the happiest days of my life.


One Hundred Years of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church; or, The Centennial of African Methodism, by James Walker Hood, 1895 (Documenting the American South, UNC Chapel Hill)

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Short video on Frederick & Anna Douglass in New Bedford, Mass.

Looks like this video was put together by the New Bedford Historical Society.


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