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Symposium: A Call to Action: Abolition, Activism, and the Principled Life

  • New Bedford Whaling Museum 18 Johnny Cake Hill New Bedford, MA, 02740 United States (map)

Registration: $25 for Members (Whaling Museum, Rotch-Jones-Duff, or New Bedford Historical Society) | $35 for Non-members Tickets: www.rjdmuseum or Brought to you by the Rotch-Jones-Duff House and Garden Museum, in partnership with the New Bedford Whaling Museum, the New Bedford Historical Society, and the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park

The constitution of the New Bedford Anti-Slavery Society was signed by more than 120 citizens of the town—men and women, black and white. William Rotch Jr. was the society’s first president, but his efforts to abolish slavery in the United States had begun almost a half-century earlier. A Call to Action aims to place Rotch’s life and activism in the contexts of his Quaker upbringing, the economic and political relations between North and South, and the lives of African Americans, both free and fugitive. From the era of the early republic to the Civil War, abolitionist sentiment and action made New Bedford a destination for African Americans escaping slavery. Here men and women making new lives in the North found opportunities for work and entrepreneurial advancement in an economy dominated by the whaling industry. A liberal tradition fostered in substantial measure by the town’s Quaker heritage combined with the abundant employment whaling offered both at sea and on shore to foster a diverse, relatively tolerant, and prosperous culture. Still, the connection between New Bedford’s wealth and the North’s dependence on the South has not been fully explored. A Call to Action will revisit and share these stories with an eye toward connecting them to issues affecting American society today, and it aims to serve as a foundation for continued conversations as we make choices about the fabric of our communities going forward.