Exhibitions 2018: Black Spaces Matter: Celebrating New Bedford's Abolition Row

Exhibitions 2018: Black Spaces Matter: Celebrating New Bedford's Abolition Row
Black Spaces Matter: Celebrating New Bedford's Abolition Row

Exhibition Dates: November 8, 2018 - January 30, 2019

Black Spaces Matter Exhibition postcard front

Exhibition features the story of Abolition Row in New Bedford, MA, where African American historical figures such as Frederick Douglass and abolitionists resided. Black Spaces Matter: Celebrating New Bedford's Abolition Row includes virtual reality neighborhood tours, documentary films, 3-D printed models, artistic illustrations, student projects, historic maps, and photographs. 

Gallery Events:

Reception and Panel Discussion: Thurs, Nov 8, 6-8 PM

6PM: Doors open

6:30- 6:45PM: Learning from Black Neighborhoods. Pamela Karimi, Associate Professor of Art History at UMass Dartmouth.

6:45-7:05PM: Abolition Row and the Underground Railroad in New Bedford and Beyond. Lee Blake, President of the New Bedford Historical Society. 

7:05- 7:30PM: Panel discussion with exhibition contributors moderated by Art History Professor Pamela Karimi.

Lecture: Thurs, Nov 15 6-8 PM

Lecture on Race & Architecture by Itohan Osayimwese, Professor of Architectural History, Brown University. 

Roundtable Discussion: Thurs, Nov 29, 6:30-7:30PM

Filming Abolition Row. Roundtable discussion on interpreting stories into film with filmmakers Don Burton and Ann Marie Lopes and New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park's Cultural Resource Specialist, Janine da Silva. 

Lecture: Thurs, Dec 6, 6-8PM

NB Historical Society presents: Anne Louro, City of New Bedford Preservation Planner. Anne will talk about creative placemaking and the creation of Abolition Row as the City's newest Historical District. 

Lecture: Thurs, Dec 13, 6-8PM

New Bedford Historical Society presents: Digging History with Craig Chartier, archeologist who conducted the dig at the Abolition Row Park site.

George Howland

Curator's Statement

This exhibition showcases the abolitionist neighborhood near the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park. This neighborhood, which was the home of many African Americans, white and black abolitionists, and former slaves, provides a lens with which one may study interracial aspects of American cities. Massachusetts abolished slavery in 1783, more than 80 years before the Thirteenth Amendment. However, federal law supporting slave owners superseded this law and there were cases of slaves being “reclaimed” from Massachusetts in the years that followed. A strong network of abolitionists, both black and white, gave New Bedford its claim to fame that no slave was ever forcibly “reclaimed” from it.

New Bedford’s architecture reflects a period of relative racial equality and tolerance in “the City that lit the world” during its whaling boom. This neighborhood includes a mixture of Gothic Revival, Federal, Greek Revival, and early Italian homes, as well as modest cottages. Important historical figures, such as Fredrick Douglass and Lewis Temple, resided in these homes.

In recent years, we have seen a growing body of literature on race and architecture. However, this scholarship has focused mostly on the negative side of such built environments, lacking an in-depth exploration of the form and function of interracial neighborhoods. This exhibition celebrates the aesthetics and architectonics of New Bedford’s Abolition Row where many former slaves lived side-by-side with the rest of the population and engaged multiple aspects of the City’s interracial architecture.

Through this exhibition, local New Bedford experts along with students and faculty from UMass Dartmouth reveal a lesser-known progressive interracial neighborhood in the United States.

Sky Gate


Black Spaces Matter is supported by New Bedford Historical Society, Creative Economy Fund from the Office of the UMass President, UMass Dartmouth Provost Office, Perkins + Will Associates,  Rotch–Jones–Duff House and Garden Museum, and Spinner Publications.


Lead curator: Pamela Karimi | Architectural renderings, model production, and maps: Pedram Karimi and students in Architecture and Sustainability class | Film, animation, and digital curation: Don Burton | Artistic representations: Michael Swartz | Advertisement and graphic design: Ziddi Msangi, Racsa Soun, Vasco Pedro and students in Community Engagement Design studio | Digital stations: Michael Swartz, Don Burton, Ben Guan-Kennedy, and Merri Cyr| Production Manager: Jennifer McGrory | Consultant: Lee Blake | Curatorial assistance: CVPA students, Cynthia Raposa, Mark Walker, and gallery director, Viera Levitt.

Black Spaces Matter Exhibition Vignette