This Month at the MHS
Alexander Graham Bell is known as the inventor of the telephone, but as the son of a deaf woman and, later, husband to another, his goal in life from adolescence was to teach the deaf to speak. And yet by the end of his life, despite his best efforts—or perhaps because of them—Bell had become the American Deaf community’s most powerful enemy. Katie Booth recounts the complicated tragedy of a brilliant young man who set about stamping out what he saw as a dangerous language: Sign. The book offers a heartbreaking look at how heroes can become villains and how good intentions are, unfortunately, nowhere near enough—as well as a powerful account of the dawn of a civil rights movement and the triumphant tale of how the Deaf community reclaimed their once-forbidden language.
This seminar honors the legacy and career of noted Harvard historian and MHS Life Trustee Bernard Bailyn. In his lengthy career, Prof. Bailyn explored and wrote about various areas in Early American history. Three leading historians will discuss Bailyn's influence on their respective sub-fields and on their own scholarship in this tribute to a master scholar and teacher.
Please note, this is an online event held on the video conference platform, Zoom. Registrants will receive an email with links to join the program.
It may be difficult to imagine that a consequential black electoral politics evolved in the United States before the Civil War, for as of 1860, the overwhelming majority of African Americans remained in bondage. Yet free black men, many of them escaped slaves, steadily increased their influence in electoral politics over the course of the early American republic. Despite efforts to disenfranchise them, black men voted across much of the North, sometimes in numbers sufficient to swing elections. Van Gosse offers a sweeping reappraisal of the formative era of American democracy from the Constitution's ratification through Abraham Lincoln’s election, chronicling the rise of an organized, visible black politics focused on the quest for citizenship, the vote, and power within the free states.
In the 1980s, Massachusetts embraced the War on Drugs, enacting harsh mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. It took decades to confront the reality that, in addition to being ineffective and costly, mandatory minimums resulted in the pervasive and disproportionate incarceration of Black and Brown people. Panelists will discuss this troubling history, recent reforms, and the prospects for implementing drug policies that are effective, fair, and just.
Hon. Sydney Hanlon, Massachusetts Appeals Court
Sen. William N. Brownsberger, Second Suffolk & Middlesex District; Abrigal Forrester, Executive Director, Center for Teen Empowerment; Rahsaan D. Hall, Director of the Racial Justice Program, American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts; Deborah A. Ramirez, Professor, Northeastern University School of Law
Developed by the Northeastern University School of Law Criminal Justice Task Force, Confronting Racial Injustice is a free, five-part series hosted by the Massachusetts Historical Society and sponsored by a number of Boston-area organizations.close
When we talk about patriotism in America, we tend to mean one form: the version captured in shared celebrations like the national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance. But as Ben Railton argues, that celebratory patriotism is just one of four distinct forms: celebratory, the communal expression of an idealized America; mythic, the creation of national myths that exclude certain communities; active, acts of service and sacrifice for the nation; and critical, arguments for how the nation has fallen short of its ideals that seek to move us toward that more perfect union. In Of Thee I Sing, Railton defines those four forms of American patriotism, using the four verses of “America the Beautiful” as examples of each type, and traces them across our histories.