This Week @MHS

Here is a look at what is going on at the MHS this week:

On Tuesday, 25 February, at 5:15 PM, The Difference the 19th Amendment Made: Southern Black Women & the Reconstruction of American Politics with Liette Gidlow, Wayne State University, and comment by Susan Ware, Schlesinger Library. 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’s voter turnout was low, and the progressive reforms promised by suffragists failed to materialize. This interpretation, however, does not fully account for the activities of aspiring African American women voters in the Jim Crow South at the time or more broadly across the U.S. in the decades since. This paper argues that southern Black women’s efforts to vote, successful and otherwise, transformed not only the mid-century Black freedom struggle but political parties, election procedures, and social movements on the right and the left. This is part of the Boston Seminar on Modern American Society and Culture* series. Seminars are free and open to the public.

On Thursday, 27 February, at 6:00 PM: We the People: The 500-Year Battle Over Who Is American with Benjamin Railton, Fitchburg State University. Ben Railton argues that throughout our history two competing yet interconnected concepts have battled to define our national identity and community: exclusionary and inclusive visions of who gets to be an American. From the earliest moments of European contact with indigenous peoples, through the Revolutionary period’s debates on African American slavery, 19th century conflicts over Indian Removal, Mexican landowners, and Chinese immigrants, 20th century controversies around Filipino Americans and Japanese internment, and 21st century fears of Muslim Americans, time and again this defining battle has shaped our society and culture. A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30 PM; the speaking program begins at 6:00 PM. There is a $10 per person fee (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members, EBT or ConnectorCare cardholders).

On Friday, 28 February, at 12:00 PM: A Vast Consolidation: Agents of Empire, the United States Navy, & the Processes of Pacific Expansion, 1784-1861 with Christopher T. Costello, University of California San Diego. This project explores the ways through which New England merchants, ship captains, sailors, and missionaries who were living and working throughout the Pacific’s oceanic space from 1784 to 1861 utilized the United States Navy to promote or safeguard their commercial, spiritual, and political interests to expand an American sphere of influence; promoting a nascent concept of American empire. This is part of the Brown-bag lunch programBrown-bags are free and open to the public.

On Saturday, 29 February, from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM: Lessons from the Boston Massacre: Media Literacy in the 18th Century & TodayIn honor of the 250th anniversary of the infamous Boston Massacre, we will explore the events leading up to it and the conflict’s aftermath, which played out both in the courts and in public opinion. Using a variety of primary sources, we will examine the public narratives about the Massacre that were created and disseminated and connect our discussion to 21st-century sites of protest and challenges to authority, both violent and non-violent. This program is open to all who work with K-12 students. Teachers can earn 22.5 PDPs or 1 graduate credit (for an additional fee). There is a registration fee of $25 per person. Registration is required.

*Our seminars bring together a diverse group of scholars and interested members of the public to workshop a pre-circulated paper. After brief remarks from the author and an assigned commentator, the discussion is opened to the floor. All are encourage to ask questions, provide feedback on the circulated essay, and discuss the topic at hand. Discussion is followed by a reception of light refreshments. The sessions are free and open to everyone.

Fire! Voices from the Boston Massacre
On the evening of March 5, 1770, soldiers occupying the town of Boston shot into a crowd, killing or fatally wounding five civilians. In the aftermath of what soon became known as the Boston  Massacre, questions about the command to “Fire!” became crucial. Who yelled it? When and why? Because the answers would determine the guilt or innocence of the soldiers, defense counsel John Adams insisted that “Facts are stubborn things.” But what are the facts? The evidence, often contradictory, drew upon testimony from dozens of witnesses. Through a selection of artifacts, eyewitness accounts, and trial testimony—the voices of ordinary men and women—Fire! Voice from the Boston Massacre explores how this flashpoint changed American history. The exhibition is on display at the MHS through 30 June 2020, Monday and Wednesday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and Tuesday from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM.