New Bedford Whaling Museum to Officially Open Expansion of Paul Cuffe Park

NEW BEDFORD – Just one trip to the Whaling City will open one’s eyes its vast and expansive history.

While the small coastal city is best known for its history as one of the most important whaling ports in the world, it also played significant roles in the American Revolution, abolitionist movement, and industrial revolution.

The New Bedford Whaling Museum has announced that it will officially open the recently completed expansion of Captain Paul Cuffe Park with a ribbon cutting ceremony. The ceremony, free and open to the public, is scheduled for Friday, September 21 at 4:30 p.m.

The park is located at the corner of Johnny Cake Hill and Union Street in New Bedford, adjacent to museum’s Wattles Jacobs Education Center.

The Whaling Museum established Captain Paul Cuffe Park in 2011 near the site where he operated his store, Cuffe & Howards. The opportunity to expand the park came in 2015 with the opening of the Wattles Jacobs Education Center.

The Massachusetts and New Bedford Historical Commissions approved the new design, which the museum says quadruples the park’s footprint. The museum says the expansion will aim to “elevate this tribute to Cuffe’s regional impact as a prominent merchant, community leader, and advocate of equal rights.”  

Born on Cuttyhunk Island in 1759, Cuffe grew to live on the SouthCoast as a Quaker businessman, sea captain, patriot, and abolitionist. Cuffe was of Wampanoag and Ashanti descent, eventually becoming one of the wealthiest men of color in the nation through his lucrative shipping empire.

Cuffe played an integral role in granting full citizenship rights to people of color in Massachusetts with his petition to protest taxation on them while also withholding the right to vote. In Westport, Cuffe established the first racially integrated school. He was also one of the first black men to have a formal meeting with a sitting U.S. president.

Immediately after the ribbon cutting, an exhibition entitled “Captain Paul Cuffe: His Work, Vision, and Living Legacy” will open. The museum also says it’s planning a slate of educational programming surrounding Cuffe and his legacy for this fall.

By TIM DUNN, News Center

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