From The Atlantic (theatlantic.com), ‘What Is Special About My Town’: Harrisburg, New Bedford, Rochester: A state capital, a former whaling town, and a company birthplace. By JAMES FALLOWS AUG 26 2013, 12:18 PM ET
New Bedford, MA (2010 population: 95,072)
I was first introduced to New Bedford a little over a year ago when I moved here to work as a reporter at the local newspaper. I knew very little about the city — which at approximately 100,000 people is the sixth largest in Massachusetts — except that Moby-Dick starts there. It’s a former whaling town and a former textile town and a former fishing town and like many “former” places, there’s high unemployment and low education levels that go back decades. People here like to say that it’s a small city with big-city problems, and it is. It’s hard to think of a national story that the city doesn’t take and make its own: immigration, green energy, machine politics, education reform, health care, judicial reform, stop-and-frisk, abandoned housing, community colleges. I could go on and on, pointing toward the 2007 Bianco raid, the nearby Cape Wind offshore wind farm, and more. But despite the city’s challenges, its residents have a real passion and love for the place, which has started to turn around in the last 10 years through a combination of strong political stewardship, careful city planning and a community of artists and historic preservationists. If there’s a city in Massachusetts that has things to say about the possibilities for the American future, both economically and socially, this is it! There is also an airport.
My response, published on the New Bedford Guide website, 8/28/2013: https://www.facebook.com/NewBedfordGuide/posts/603402586362991
To dismiss New Bedford as a has been “whaling town” forgets its glory as the wealthiest city in New England during the whaling period. As the saying goes “New Bedford lit the world”. Renegade slaves could taste freedom and safe living and employment amongst New Bedford’s teeming streets; not one run-away was ever turned in or captured as New Bedford fiercely protected its citizens right to walk free. New Bedford’s textile industry birthed an educational technical college that over time has evolved into the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth which boasts disciplines in Fine Arts, Engineering, Law, and Ocean Fisheries. Our sea-going fleet is still the port to best in terms of wealth-of-haul; our scallops fisheries is being scientifically managed to increase healthy catch and profit. The airport has been expanded and is rebounding during the recession – and has New Bedford, time and time again. The only thing about New Bedford that most residents see, unfortunately, is the fact – to them – that the city is a sorry “has been”. I always say that the city is what you make it: if you see dusty and old then it is, but if you see promise you’ll find it in New Bedford.
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