Faculty

Sailing to Freedom: New Bedford and the Underground Railroad features an interdisciplinary team of highly experienced faculty engaged with issues of slavery, Abolitionism, the Underground Railroad, maritime trades, and the history of New Bedford. The faculty for each workshop includes historians, literary scholars, art and architectural historians, communications scholars, anthropologists, and master teachers. They will work in collaboration with curators, archivists, and librarians from New Bedford’s many cultural and educational institutions.

Dr. Timothy Walker is co-director and Professor of History at the
University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. He is a scholar of maritime history and the trans-
Atlantic slave trade. Since 2005, he has coordinated and taught New Bedford-based Masters
level courses specifically about regional maritime history for public school educators in
Massachusetts. He has previously directed three “Sailing to Freedom” workshops.
Dr. Anthony F. Arrigo is a co-director and an Associate Professor of English and
Communication at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. He is a multi-award-winning educator and scholar of
rhetoric, specializing in rhetorical theory. He has taught the oratory and writing of Frederick Douglass and the Abolitionist movement, and the use of images as primary source material. He has previously directed two NEH Institutes and one NEH Workshop.
Lee Blake is the program coordinator and three-time project administrator for “Sailing to Freedom.” She is an educator and President of the New Bedford Historical Society. She is chiefly responsible for the preservation and development of New Bedford’s Abolitionist Row, the new Frederick Douglass park, the Nathan and Polly Johnson House.
Jeffrey Peterson will be one of our Master Teachers. Jeffrey teaches at The College Preparatory School in Oakland, California. In his twentieth year of high school teaching, Peterson holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and is a proud alumnus of Sailing to Freedom 2013.
Polly Zajac will be one of our Master Teachers. Polly is a 28-year veteran teacher for the Schooner Ernestina, New Bedford Public Schools, and is now Mentor Coordinator for the New Bedford Global Learning Charter Public School (NBGLCPS).
Dr. Len Travers is a professor and former Chair of the UMass
Dartmouth History Department. Dr. Travers will direct participants through a unique primary source assignment: to create an occupational “snapshot” map of New Bedford’s population of
color in 1838, using the 1838 city directory.
Dr. Kate Clifford Larson is a faculty member at Brandeis University. Her research focuses on Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, a subject for which she served as a consultant to the National Parks Service, and for the historical drama film Harriet, released in 2019. She is also the author of “Harriet Tubman: Bound for the Promised Land.” Kate’s most recent book is “Walk with Me: A Biography of Fannie Lou Hamer.” Her book  “Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Lincoln” was also made into a film.
Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander is a Professor of History at Norfolk State University. Her research centers on American and African-American History. She teaches undergraduate and graduate classes on Abolitionism and the Underground Railroad. She is the author of several books including Virginia Waterways and the Underground Railroad (The History Press, 2017).
Kathryn Grover is an independent scholar, her books include Make a Way Somehow: African-American Life in a Northern Community (Syracuse U. Press, 1994) and The Fugitive’s Gibraltar: Escaping Slaves and Abolitionism in New Bedford, Massachusetts (UMass Press, 2001)
David Cecelski is an independent scholar and author of The Watermen’s Song: Slavery and Freedom in Maritime North Carolina (Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2001).
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