Cape Crusaders

A museum to Cape history you never knew

verdeanPhoto: New Bedford Whaling Museum

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f you think Cape Cod is all about (very, very) white people in Topsiders wearing sweaters knotted around their necks, we’ve got a secret for you: There’s a huge, active, long-established, and prosperous nonwhite population, largely descended from immigrants who worked on whaling ships and in cranberry bogs, and now there’s a museum devoted to this little-known element of Cape Cod history. The Zion Union Heritage Museum chronicles the contributions of Cape Verdeans, who arrived beginning in the 19th centuries from the Portuguese islands in the Atlantic, and other black Cape Codders. The museum, in a church built in 1909 by local blacks, includes artifacts of the early whaling and farming days, the civil rights movement, and more recent times during which Cape Verdean-Americans and other nonwhites have served in top political positions in Hyannis, Falmouth, and other Cape Cod towns, where their surnames are as common as Nickerson and Doane. Volunteer tour guides offer their own personal perspectives.

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Five thousand black soldiers served in the American army during the Revolutionary War, 30 percent of them from Massachusetts and 60 from Cape Cod.

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