Preservation of the Nathan and Mary Johnson House

Since 1996, the New Bedford Historical Society was been working to preserve and celebrate the heritage of African Americans, Cape Verdeans, Native Americans, West Indians, and other people of color in New Bedford, Massachusetts. One of the group’s signature accomplishments has been the acquisition and preservation of the Nathan and Mary Johnson House. Home to antebellum African American entrepreneurs and an Underground Railroad site, it also was the first home of abolitionist Frederick Douglass upon his escape from slavery.

Now the Society’s headquarters, the Johnson House had been slated for demolition before being purchased by the Society. Society volunteers researched the house and completed the nomination application that culminated in the property being designated as a National Historic Landmark. Recent renovation of the main floor of the house has made the house available for community meetings and educational presentations.

The Johnson House is featured on an Underground Railroad walking tour that Society volunteers developed in conjunction with the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park. For 15 years, the Society and the National Park Service (NPS) have partnered in educational programming and special events. The Society and NPS provide training for docents and have collaborated on curriculum materials for teachers.

Designated a Preserve America Steward in November 2012.