Massachusetts Historical Society Conferences

2020 Conrad E. Wright Research Conference

“Shall Not Be Denied”: The 15th and 19th Amendments at the Sesquicentennial and Centennial of their Ratifications, October 16-17, 2020

 

The year 2020 marks the anniversaries of two critical amendments to the United States Constitution. Spaced fifty years apart, the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments, ratified in 1870 and 1920, respectively, prohibited the use of race or sex to deny American citizens the franchise. However, the amendments did not prevent states from adopting other methods of discrimination. Viewed as the product of two different movements—abolitionism and the Civil War on the one hand and the Progressive campaigns and the First World War on the other—these two periods and amendments are not often considered together. This conference revisits the long journey to secure voting rights for African Americans and women in United States history. It considers the legal precedents and hurdles that each amendment faced, the meaning and uneven outcomes of each, the social context that allowed for ultimate ratification, the role of key individuals and groups in these respective contexts, and how each amendment has been remembered over time.

A keynote panel preceded by a reception will take place on Friday, 16 October. The panel features Profs. Alison M. Parker (University of Delaware) and Lisa Tetrault (Carnegie Mellon University) and will be moderated by Prof. Alex Keyssar (Harvard). The full conference day will take place on Saturday, 17 October.

Past Conferences

For more than two decades, the Massachusetts Historical Society has been offering scholarly conferences on a wide variety of topics. These have ranged from the libraries of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, to Transcendentalism, Boston's business community before the Civil War, the city's environmental history, and recent immigration to the U.S.

Presenters come from throughout the U.S. and are leading scholars in their respective fields. Often, conferences culminate in a publication of essays that are drawn from the program and represent a lasting contribution to historical scholarship. Past conferences include:

The Future of History (2016)

"'So Sudden an Alteration': The Causes, Course, and Consequences of the American Revolution" (2015)

Massachusetts and the Civil War: The Commonwealth and National Disunion (2013)

What's New about the New Immigration to the U.S.? Traditions and Transformations since 1965 (2011)

Margaret Fuller and Her Circles (2010)

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson: Libraries, Leadership, and Legacy (2009)

I-CHORA 3: International Conference on the History of Records and Archives (2007)

Power and Protest: The Civil Rights Movement in Boston, 1960-1968 (2006)

Remaking Boston: The City and Environmental Change Over the Centuries (2006)

Women, War, Work: American Women and the U.S. Military in the Twentieth Century (2004)

"Spires of Form": The Emerson Bicentennial Conference (2003)

For information about earlier conference programs, please contact Katy Morris, Research Coordinator, at 617-646-0577 or kmorris@masshist.org.

Conference Publications

Since its first conference volume on American Unitarianism, issued in 1989, the MHS has made the scholarship developed through its conferences widely and permanently available to the field.

The MHS publication series Studies in American History and Culture comprises many of these volumes. More recently, MHS conference volumes published by other presses have given our conference scholarship an even wider reach. Peruse these essay collections.

Upcoming Events

Modern American Society and Culture Seminar

The Difference the Nineteenth Amendment Made: Southern Black Women and the Reconstruction of ...

25Feb 5:15PM 2020

Many scholars have argued that though the enfranchisement of women was laudable, not much changed after women got the vote: the suffrage coalition splintered, women&rsquo ...

Brown Bag

“Any Indyan which they shall attain to”: Indian Labor, Servitude, and Slavery in Early America

26Feb 12:00PM 2020

This project makes transnational comparisons of early enslavement of Native Americans by European colonists in the Atlantic world. Specifically, this project examines ...

Author Talk

We the People: The 500-Year Battle Over Who Is American

27Feb 6:00PM 2020
There is a pre-talk reception at 5:30.

Ben Railton argues that throughout our history two competing yet interconnected concepts have battled to define our national identity and community: exclusionary and ...

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