It's time for Westport to honor Paul Cuffe

Posted 8/27/21

To the editor:

I don’t think there is much debate that Westport's most distinguished citizen is Paul Cuffe.  Born on Cuttyhunk in 1759 to a Wampanoag mother and a father who had been …

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It's time for Westport to honor Paul Cuffe

Posted

To the editor:

I don’t think there is much debate that Westport's most distinguished citizen is Paul Cuffe.  Born on Cuttyhunk in 1759 to a Wampanoag mother and a father who had been sold into slavery from his home in Africa, Paul Cuffe rose to become a successful international mariner and businessman. He built his ships on the Westport River, founded the first racially integrated school in the United States here and donated half of the money for the Friends Meeting House. In 1812 in met with President James Madison and may have been the first black man to be a guest in the White House. He died in 1817 and is buried next to his wife at the Friends Meeting House. My ancestor, William Rotch, Jr., a close friend and business partner gave one of the eulogies at Mr. Cuffe’s funeral.

There is a park near the Whaling Museum in New Bedford named in his honor as well as an exhibit inside. There is a school in Providence named for Mr. Cuffe. There have been seminars held and books written, the most recent one by Westport’s own David Cole. But the fact remains that in Paul Cuffe’s hometown, we have not found a way to honor him. There is not a building nor a school nor a road, nor a highway, nor a landing - nothing named for this man who did so much for our community. He is an inspiration to everyone about what one can achieve in America. Can our town’s leaders find a way to honor Paul Cuffe?

John Bullard

Westport Point

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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.