The Massachusetts Historical Society will host a series of programs, seminars, and workshops exploring the field of disability history. These events, aimed at members of the public, academic researchers, and educators, will provide a foundation for future MHS programming centering disability in historical analysis. Through panel conversations, presentations, and discussion, we will introduce the field of disability history, investigate some major research areas in the field such as activism, material culture, medical history, technology, citizenship, and provide a forum to examine new, emerging scholarship in our seminar series. Join us and speakers from around the country for this multi-perspective examination of disability in the American past.

 

Note on accessibility: All online programs will be in English and will have closed captioning enabled through Zoom. The panel discussions (10/7 An Introduction to Disability History; 10/13 Disability and the History of Medicine; 10/18 Disability in Early America; and 10/27 Disability Activism) will have ASL interpreters and will be recorded and will be available on YouTube within a week of the program. Our seminars explore unpublished works and because they are exploring a project in progress, they are not recorded. If you have questions about accessibility, please contact programs@masshist.org 

October 2021
Disability and the American Past Disability in Early America 18 October 2021.Monday, 5:30PM - 6:30PM Online Event Sari Altschuler, Northeastern University; Nicole Belolan, Rutgers University; Laurel Daen, University of Notre Dame; moderated by Kanisorn Wongsrichanalai, MHS Our panel will explore how disability functioned in early America from personal, political, and ...

Our panel will explore how disability functioned in early America from personal, political, and cultural perspectives. What did disability mean in the early United States and how does it differ from our ideas about disability today? How did disability operate as a political and legal category in the colonial period, and how did it change in the early republic? What can material culture tell us about the lived experience of persons with disabilities in the era? This conversation will situate disability as a framework through which we can better understand the early lives of Americans and their often contested national and cultural identity.

Please note, this is a virtual event held on the video conference platform, Zoom. Registrants will receive a confirmation message with attendance information.

More
Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020/banner_draft_2.jpg Disability and the American Past Her Yet Unwritten History: Black Women and the Education of Students of Color with Disabilities in the New South 19 October 2021.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 6:30PM Online Event Jenifer Barclay, University at Buffalo Comment: David Connor, CUNY Historians have recognized the role of Black women educators in schools throughout the south, work ...

Historians have recognized the role of Black women educators in schools throughout the south, work associated today with well-known figures like Mary McLeod Bethune, Nannie Helen Burroughs, and Mary Church Terrell. Little has been written, however, about lesser known Black women educators like Susan Lowe, Amanda Johnson, and Effie Whitaker, who made essential contributions to the early education of children of color with disabilities in the south. This essay will consider the critical work of these women who represent just a handful of the many Black women who recognized the overlapping effects of racism and ableism in the lives of disabled students of color.

The African American History Seminar invites you to join this special session in the Disability and the American Past series. Seminars bring together a diverse group of scholars and interested members of the public to workshop a pre-circulated paperLearn more.

Please note, this is an exclusively online event. Registrants will receive a confirmation message with attendance information.

Register to attend online

More
Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/sgp-vol-27-p082-083_no-background_for_web.jpg Disability and the American Past Re-examining Dorothea Dix and 19th-Century Disability Reform 23 October 2021.Saturday, 9:00AM - 3:00PM $25 Registration Fee   19th-century Massachusetts reformer Dorothea Dix is renowned for her efforts to improve the ...
 
19th-century Massachusetts reformer Dorothea Dix is renowned for her efforts to improve the horrendous treatment of people with mental disabilities in local jails, almshouses, and asylums. Her investigations and activism led to major changes in the mental health field, including shifting care from local to state control. However, Dix’s views and actions were not representative of individuals with cognitive and psychiatric disabilities, and the voices of these individuals are often marginalized when the history of these reforms is told. 
 
In partnership with Emerging America and the Disability History Museum, the MHS offers an educator workshop that will provide a deeper context for teaching Dix’s legacy and the history of asylum reforms in the 19th century. Educators will engage with rich primary sources that center the voices of people with mental disabilities and will be equipped with strategies for bringing these important stories into the classroom. 
 
Presented as part of the Massachusetts Historical Society series “Disability and the American Past.” 
 
This program is open to all who work with K-12 students. Teachers can earn either 22.5 PDPs or 1 graduate credit with Worcester State University (for an additional fee). The $25 workshop fee is non-refundable. This event will take place virtually and will be presented in English with English auto-generated captioning, and ASL translation and live captioning are available upon request during registration (please place requests for ASL translation by 10/18 and live caption requests by 10/19). The scholar lecture will be recorded and made available to registrants in advance of the workshop; all other workshop sessions will feature breakout rooms, so they will not be recorded.
 
For more information, questions, or further accessibility requests, please contact us at education@masshist.org
More
Disability and the American Past Disability Activism: A Historical Perspective from Some of the Leading Activists in Massachusetts 27 October 2021.Wednesday, 5:30PM - 6:30PM Online Event Heather Watkins, Charlie Carr, Keith Jones, John Chappell , Fred Pelka and moderator Malia Lazu The disabilities rights movement, like many rights movements, has been complex, coming from a ...

The disabilities rights movement, like many rights movements, has been complex, coming from a variety of different perspectives, but at its heart, it has been a movement for justice, equal opportunities and reasonable accommodations. Massachusetts has played a unique role in this struggle and this conversation will aim to introduce the story of disability activism in Massachusetts. Our panel includes current activists and historians of this movement. Through a moderated, roundtable discussion, our panelists will explore their experiences, their inspirations, the history of the movement and what they hope to see in the future of disability activism.

Please note, this is a virtual event held on the video conference platform, Zoom. Registrants will receive a confirmation message with attendance information.

More
Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020/masc_banner.jpg Disability and the American Past “The Virus of Slavery and Injustice”: Analogy and Disabled Life in African American Writings, 1856-1892 28 October 2021.Thursday, 5:15PM - 6:30PM Online Event Vivian Delchamps, University of California, Los Angeles Comment: Sari Altschuler, Northeastern University Engaging Todd Carmody’s invitation to consider how “race might have been &lsquo ...

Engaging Todd Carmody’s invitation to consider how “race might have been ‘like’ disability in the late nineteenth century,” this essay explores texts by African American authors Charlotte L. Forten, Martin Robison Delany, and Frances E.W. Harper. Harper’s novel Iola Leroy renders slavery a “virus,” “deadly cancer,” and “wound,” necessitating cure; simultaneously, the novel depicts lived realities of disability, disrupts diagnostic reading practices, and takes a care-based, rather than curative, approach to disability itself.  The essay thus reads literature as a generative site for asserting ableism’s centrality to the legacy of racial violence, and explores the value of using diagnostic-like narrative methods to target systemic sources of mass debilitation.

The Dina G. Malgeri Modern American Society & Culture Seminar invites you to join this special session in the Disability and the American Past series. Seminars bring together a diverse group of scholars and interested members of the public to workshop a pre-circulated paperLearn more.

Please note, this is an exclusively online event hosted on the video conference platform, Zoom. Registrants will receive a confirmation message with attendance information.

Register to attend online

More
Disability and the American Past Disability in Early America Register registration required at no cost 18 October 2021.Monday, 5:30PM - 6:30PM Online Event Sari Altschuler, Northeastern University; Nicole Belolan, Rutgers University; Laurel Daen, University of Notre Dame; moderated by Kanisorn Wongsrichanalai, MHS

Our panel will explore how disability functioned in early America from personal, political, and cultural perspectives. What did disability mean in the early United States and how does it differ from our ideas about disability today? How did disability operate as a political and legal category in the colonial period, and how did it change in the early republic? What can material culture tell us about the lived experience of persons with disabilities in the era? This conversation will situate disability as a framework through which we can better understand the early lives of Americans and their often contested national and cultural identity.

Please note, this is a virtual event held on the video conference platform, Zoom. Registrants will receive a confirmation message with attendance information.

close

Disability and the American Past Her Yet Unwritten History: Black Women and the Education of Students of Color with Disabilities in the New South 19 October 2021.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 6:30PM Online Event Jenifer Barclay, University at Buffalo Comment: David Connor, CUNY Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020/banner_draft_2.jpg

Historians have recognized the role of Black women educators in schools throughout the south, work associated today with well-known figures like Mary McLeod Bethune, Nannie Helen Burroughs, and Mary Church Terrell. Little has been written, however, about lesser known Black women educators like Susan Lowe, Amanda Johnson, and Effie Whitaker, who made essential contributions to the early education of children of color with disabilities in the south. This essay will consider the critical work of these women who represent just a handful of the many Black women who recognized the overlapping effects of racism and ableism in the lives of disabled students of color.

The African American History Seminar invites you to join this special session in the Disability and the American Past series. Seminars bring together a diverse group of scholars and interested members of the public to workshop a pre-circulated paperLearn more.

Please note, this is an exclusively online event. Registrants will receive a confirmation message with attendance information.

Register to attend online

close

Disability and the American Past Re-examining Dorothea Dix and 19th-Century Disability Reform Register registration required 23 October 2021.Saturday, 9:00AM - 3:00PM $25 Registration Fee Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/sgp-vol-27-p082-083_no-background_for_web.jpg
 
19th-century Massachusetts reformer Dorothea Dix is renowned for her efforts to improve the horrendous treatment of people with mental disabilities in local jails, almshouses, and asylums. Her investigations and activism led to major changes in the mental health field, including shifting care from local to state control. However, Dix’s views and actions were not representative of individuals with cognitive and psychiatric disabilities, and the voices of these individuals are often marginalized when the history of these reforms is told. 
 
In partnership with Emerging America and the Disability History Museum, the MHS offers an educator workshop that will provide a deeper context for teaching Dix’s legacy and the history of asylum reforms in the 19th century. Educators will engage with rich primary sources that center the voices of people with mental disabilities and will be equipped with strategies for bringing these important stories into the classroom. 
 
Presented as part of the Massachusetts Historical Society series “Disability and the American Past.” 
 
This program is open to all who work with K-12 students. Teachers can earn either 22.5 PDPs or 1 graduate credit with Worcester State University (for an additional fee). The $25 workshop fee is non-refundable. This event will take place virtually and will be presented in English with English auto-generated captioning, and ASL translation and live captioning are available upon request during registration (please place requests for ASL translation by 10/18 and live caption requests by 10/19). The scholar lecture will be recorded and made available to registrants in advance of the workshop; all other workshop sessions will feature breakout rooms, so they will not be recorded.
 
For more information, questions, or further accessibility requests, please contact us at education@masshist.org
close

Disability and the American Past Disability Activism: A Historical Perspective from Some of the Leading Activists in Massachusetts Register registration required at no cost 27 October 2021.Wednesday, 5:30PM - 6:30PM Online Event Heather Watkins, Charlie Carr, Keith Jones, John Chappell , Fred Pelka and moderator Malia Lazu

The disabilities rights movement, like many rights movements, has been complex, coming from a variety of different perspectives, but at its heart, it has been a movement for justice, equal opportunities and reasonable accommodations. Massachusetts has played a unique role in this struggle and this conversation will aim to introduce the story of disability activism in Massachusetts. Our panel includes current activists and historians of this movement. Through a moderated, roundtable discussion, our panelists will explore their experiences, their inspirations, the history of the movement and what they hope to see in the future of disability activism.

Please note, this is a virtual event held on the video conference platform, Zoom. Registrants will receive a confirmation message with attendance information.

close

Disability and the American Past “The Virus of Slavery and Injustice”: Analogy and Disabled Life in African American Writings, 1856-1892 28 October 2021.Thursday, 5:15PM - 6:30PM Online Event Vivian Delchamps, University of California, Los Angeles Comment: Sari Altschuler, Northeastern University Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020/masc_banner.jpg

Engaging Todd Carmody’s invitation to consider how “race might have been ‘like’ disability in the late nineteenth century,” this essay explores texts by African American authors Charlotte L. Forten, Martin Robison Delany, and Frances E.W. Harper. Harper’s novel Iola Leroy renders slavery a “virus,” “deadly cancer,” and “wound,” necessitating cure; simultaneously, the novel depicts lived realities of disability, disrupts diagnostic reading practices, and takes a care-based, rather than curative, approach to disability itself.  The essay thus reads literature as a generative site for asserting ableism’s centrality to the legacy of racial violence, and explores the value of using diagnostic-like narrative methods to target systemic sources of mass debilitation.

The Dina G. Malgeri Modern American Society & Culture Seminar invites you to join this special session in the Disability and the American Past series. Seminars bring together a diverse group of scholars and interested members of the public to workshop a pre-circulated paperLearn more.

Please note, this is an exclusively online event hosted on the video conference platform, Zoom. Registrants will receive a confirmation message with attendance information.

Register to attend online

close

Sponsors of the Disability and the American Past Series

American Antiquarian Society

Boston Center for Independent Living

Boston Public Library

The Disability History Museum

Disability Policy Consortium

Emerging America

Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually impaired

Mass Families Organizing for Change

National Council of Independent Living

National Disability Rights Network

The Arc of Massachusetts

UMass Amherst Libraries Special Collections and University Archives