Barbara Dunsford Oral History Interview

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Barbara Dunsford Oral History Interview




This interview is divided into two parts. The first part includes a brief family history of Barbara Dunsford and covers her years growing up in post-World War II Lowell, her education in the city’s public schools, her university studies, and her early work experiences. The second part focuses on her work at the Portuguese American Resource Center (PARC) in Lowell that was a program, funded by through the City of Lowell via the federal Comprehensive Employment and Training Act. PARC was a key program operated under the aegis of the Lowell Union of Portuguese Americans (LUPA), which was founded in 1977 to provide social services to the city’s growing Portuguese immigrant community. This part of the interview highlights the role of PARC within Lowell’s Portuguese community and it also covers some institutional background information on LUPA.

Biographical Note:
One of four siblings, Barbara Dunsford was born in Lowell and grew up in the city’s Highlands neighborhood. Her father was a public school teacher at the city’s vocational school and her mother was a homemaker until she entered the workforce in the 1960s. Barbara’s mother, Sophie Anne (Goncarz) Dunsford (1918-2006), was born in Lowell and her parents were Polish immigrants. Her father, Harold Bevan Dunsford, Jr. (1918-1973), was also born in Lowell, but of English (Yorkshire) descent. Barbara and her siblings attended St. Casimir’s Polish National Church in the Centreville neighborhood. All four siblings were educated in Lowell’s public schools and received college degrees. Barbara studied psychology, graduating from Lowell State College in 1973. She worked for a short time at a garden center before obtaining a staff position in Lowell’s public schools. Around 1981, she was hired as director of the Portuguese American Resource Center, a program of the Lowell Union of Portuguese Americans (LUPA).
Founded in 1977 and located in Lowell’s Back Central section, which was the city’s major Portuguese neighborhood, LUPA provided social services to the area’s Portuguese residents. A large number of Portuguese immigrants, primarily from the Azores, settled in Lowell beginning in the 1960s and into the early 1980s. The Resource Center offered a number of services and programs to aid this growing immigrant population. As director, Barbara coordinated some of these activities with the International Institute of Lowell, a long-time immigrant aid organization. She also wrote a number of grants, including one that led to an extensive photographic documentation project, carried out by local professional photographer Kevin Harkins, of the Back Central neighborhood and its residents, as well as in the various factories where many Portuguese were employed. After federal funds supporting the Resource Center were expended, Barbara worked as a director of fundraising for the University of Massachusetts Lowell. She remains active today as a consultant to a number of non-profit organizations in Lowell.



Interview conducted through the Saab Center for Portuguese Studies at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.


UMass Lowell, Center for Lowell History


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Fitzsimons, Gray, “Barbara Dunsford Oral History Interview,” Portuguese American Digital Archive, accessed July 23, 2024,

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