Table of Contents
Inventory of the Rosalind Wiggins Papers
In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library
Born in 1917, Rosalind Cobb Wiggins was an artist, author, historian, and passionate advocate for social justice and women's rights. During her professional career, Wiggins taught at Moses Brown and was curator of the New England Yearly Meeting Archives. She also served on the boards of The Interfaith Call for Racial Justice, The Providence Shelter for Colored Children, and The Rhode Island Black Heritage Society as well as holding the position of assistant editor of Crone's Nest, Wisdom of the Elderwoman. In addition to Captain Paul Cuffe's Logs and Letters (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1996), Wiggins also transcribed the Journals of Stephen Gould, a noted Rhode Island abolitionist, and reedited the Autobiography of William J. Brown, the Life of a Freeman (Durham, N.H.: University of New Hampshire Press, 2006). Wiggins died at the age of 88 in 2005.
Paul Cuffe was born in 1759 on the island of Cuttyhunk, Massachusetts, and later became a resident of Westport, Mass. He was the son of a black slave who had purchased his own freedom. Despite racial prejudice, Cuffe became a successful whaleman, merchant, and ship's captain as well as a respected citizen of Westport, joining the Society of Friends and establishing the first free school in the town. Although he was accepted in white society, he was acutely aware of the poor social conditions of slave and free blacks in America. This concern led to his first voyage to Sierra Leone, Africa, in 1811, to assess the British colony as a resettlement area for freed American slaves. Before his death in 1817, Cuffe managed to transport thirty-eight free blacks to Africa and establish several abolitionist and colonization societies in America.
Scope and Content Note
Papers in this collection reflect Rosalind Cobb Wiggins’ work on her book Captain Paul Cuffe's Logs and Letters (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1996) and consist of her research notes and drafts. Her research materials principally consist of transcriptions of Paul Cuffe’s outgoing and incoming correspondence during the years 1787 to 1817. Wiggins created her typescript transcriptions from original documents held in the collections of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society / New Bedford Whaling Museum, the New Bedford Free Public Library, and the Newport Historical Society. The correspondence that has been transcribed as part of this collection relates to Cuffe planning and executing his trip to Sierra Leone in 1816. Wiggins’ transcriptions include letters from William Rotch Jr. of New Bedford (Massachusetts), John James, a Quaker merchant of Philadelphia, and Peter Williams Jr., who was instrumental in starting the New York African Institute. Of particular note is the personal correspondence that includes requests from freed slaves for passage to Africa, letters from William Allen of London regarding Cuffe's safe passage to Sierra Leone, and several letters from settlers of Sierra Leone describing conditions in their new home. Wiggins also includes a typed index to her transcriptions of both Cuffe’s outgoing and incoming correspondence in addition to a photocopy of the last letter Cuffe wrote in 1817.
Also included in this collection are several typed drafts Wiggins wrote of her book around the year 1995. One draft is unedited and contains only the contents for the first half of her book (300 pages). Another complete 485 page draft in this collection contains several of Wiggins’ corrections and editorial notes. This collection also contains Wiggins’ 493 page final draft and a formatted final draft. Although these drafts are typed, all annotations made to them were done in Wiggins’ hand. Also included with these materials is a one page typed document titled “Supporters” listing the names of those who provided for the book’s publication with several handwritten annotations added by Wiggins.
Arrangement of Collection
Information for Researchers
Access to Collections
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New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library Mss 178, [sub-group, series, sub-series, folder/volume as appropriate], [item]
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Materials in this collection were donated to the New Bedford Whaling Museum in 1997 by Rosalind C. Wiggins as part of Accession B97-2.
Processed by: Mark Procknik, 2020
Encoded by: Kristi Mukk, 18 October 2020
African American business enterprises--Massachusetts--Westport
African American businesspeople--Massachusetts--Westport
African American merchant mariners
African American ship captains
African Americans--Colonization--Sierra Leone
African Americans--Massachusetts--Westport--Social conditions
Allen, William, 1770-1843
Back to Africa movement
Cuffe, John, 1757-1830
Cuffe, Paul, 1759-1817--Biography
Cuffe, William, 1799-approximately 1845
Paul Cuffe's logs and letters
United States--Race relations
Wiggins, Rosalind Cobb, 1917-
Williams, Peter, Jr., 1780?-1840