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Johnson, Nathan and Mary [Polly), Properties

New Bedford, Massachusetts
County of Bristol.
National Register Number: 00000260
Resource type: Building.
The threat level was Watch in
Congressional District: MA-4 Certified Local Government: YES

Statement of Significance (as of designation - February 16, 2000):
These properties are significant for Frederick Douglass’ connection with them and for the role their longtime owner, Nathan Johnson, played in Douglass’ life, in the antebellum effort to eradicate American slavery, and in assisting slaves escaping from the South. The 21 Seventh Street property was the first home of Frederick Douglass after his 1838 escape from slavery. Douglass’ intellect and temperament surely inclined him toward antislavery work, but Nathan Johnson and New Bedford provided him example and opportunity to become one of the most renowned abolitionists of his time. In addition, the 21 Seventh Street home is documented to have housed at least one other fugitive slave, and from what is known of Nathan Johnson’s antislavery work it is likely that it, and possibly 17-19 Seventh Street, harbored other fugitive slaves.

The physical condition is currently poor, however exterior rehabilitation is scheduled for 2004. Funding is in place for the exterior work only. Interior planning is required to assess existing conditions and determine the end use of the spaces. The interior use has not yet been determined.

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