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Nathan and Polly Johnson House

Johnson House

The Nathan and Polly Johnson House at 21 Seventh Street, New Bedford, Massachusetts was designated as a National Historical Landmark in 2000. This site played a significant role as a station on the Underground Railroad. The 21 Seventh Street home of Nathan and Mary (Polly) was not only the first home of fugitive Frederick Douglass and his wife, after his 1838 escape from slavery. The house is documented to have housed at least one other fugitive slave and is purported to have been a haven for many others. Douglass’ intellect and temperament surely inclined him toward anti-slavery work, but Nathan Johnson and New Bedford provided him an example and opportunity to grow into one of the most effective and renowned abolitionists of his time. Frederick Douglass was Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey and had begun to use the surname, Johnson when he arrived in New Bedford in September of 1838 and Nathan Johnson persuaded him to choose a less common name. Nathan Johnson was reading Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott and suggested he adopt the name, Douglas(s) after the lead character in the book.

Visitor Information: Currently not open to public.

Location: 21 Seventh Street, New Bedford, 02740

National Park Unit: No

Ownership: New Bedford Historical Society

Location Type: Site

Freedom Seekers: Frederick Douglass

UGRR Operatives: Nathan and Polly Johnson