These 6 Fall River homes are a part of black history.
Fall River’s history, like all of American history, is inextricably linked to the slave trade, the kidnapping and involuntary servitude of millions of African people. The city’s first textile mills built in the early half of the 19th century – the foundation upon which the city’s fortunes stool – were fueled by cotton from field in the American South, picked by generations of Black people forced into slavery from birth to death.
But Fall River was also a notable hub of anti-slavery activity in the decades before the Civil War. For several decades in the early 19th century until 1865, Fall River was an important stop on the Underground Railroad, the network of safe-houses and collaborators who helped Black people escape the South and slave-catchers. Runaways bold and lucky enough to make it from the cruel horrors of the plantations to Norfolk, Virginia, would be stowed away on commercial ships to Wareham or New Bedford, then to Fall River, and on to Rhode Island and points north.
“Conductors” on the Underground Railroad would take in desperate fugitives, starving and sometimes clad in tattered rags or even costumes, hide them from the law until their next stop was arranged, and then send them on to
Rhode Island, Vermont, and finally Canada, which had abolished slavery decades earlier and gave Black people equal rights under the law.
The conductors and their “cargo” were criminals, breaking the Fugitive Slave Law. The white conductors risked steep fines and imprisonment. The
Black fugitives risked being sent back to the hell of slavery and likely punishment that could have meant whipping, branding or mutilation. Because of the secrecy, it will never be known for sure how many Black people passed through Fall River, or even how many stations there were.
But several people in Fall River were known to be conductors on the Underground Railroad, and their homes known to be “stations.” Most are still standing. In honor of Black History Month, here’s a look at some of the places in Fall River known to have harbored Black people on their journey to