The free-born son of an African father and Native American mother, Paul Cuffe (1759-1817), was recently honored at a dedication ceremony for Captain Paul Cuffe Park at the New Bedford Whaling Museum in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
According to Eastbayri.com, the historic Native American man was a skillful mariner and whaling captain as well as a merchant, philanthropist, community leader, civil rights advocate and abolitionist.
“In 1780 he petitioned for the right to vote as a landowner and taxpayer,” the website says. “He established the first integrated school in America and became an advisor to President James Madison.”
Several of Cuffe’s descendants attended the dedication ceremony held September 24, including members of several southern New England tribes. Cuffe’s mother was Wampanoag. A traditional Native American smudge ceremony blessed the park before state and local officials cut the ribbon.
This dedication took nearly 200 years after Cuffe’s death to happen, but according to his descendants he deserves a lasting tribute.
“Paul Cuffe placed the country on the road to civil rights,” Lee Blake, a Cuffe descendant and president of the New Bedford Historical Society, told Southcoasttoday.com in 2009 during a 250th anniversary celebration of his birth.