The Politics of Hope: Four Historians Take on the Obama Presidency

On November 6, 2016 at the Boston Public Library four historians discussed Obama's legacy. Perhaps no president came into office with greater challenges or higher expectations than Barack Obama. Where will future presidential historians rank our first African-American president? For what will he be best remembered?
Panelists: Ellen Fitzpatrick, political historian at the University of New Hampshire; Annette Gordon-Reed, historian and law professor at Harvard University; David Greenberg, journalist and historian at Rutgers University; Heather Cox Richards, Professor of American History at Boston College; Moderated by Meghna Chakrabarti host of WBUR's Radio Boston.
categories: symposium, video


"Dawnland" about the Maine Wabanaki-State Welfare Truth & Reconciliation Commission is a full length documentary currently in postproduction and slated for release in early 2017. Mass Humanities funded three short social media documentary films to support the creation and distribution of the full-length documentary film "DAWNLAND." For centuries, the United States government has taken Native American children away from their tribes, devastating parents and denying children their traditions, culture, and identity. First Light documents these practices from the 1800s to today, and tells the story of an unprecedented experiment in truth-telling and healing for Wabanaki people and child welfare workers in Maine. In 2015 the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded that Native people in Maine continue to be targets of "cultural genocide." The commission is the topic of a documentary film. GRANT DETAILS
categories: funded film, video

Citizenship, Justice, and Racial Conciliation

On November 1, 2015 an outstanding group of scholars gathered to discuss citizenship, justice, and racial conciliation.  Three experts, including Danielle Allen, James Forman, Jr., and Tommie Shelby offered their insights about moving toward national conciliation, moderated by Douglas Blackmon. This free public forum was held at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Boston, MA.
categories: symposium, video

Created Equal: Striving toward Justice for All

A special forum, temporarily replacing our annual fall symposium, held at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum. The forum marked the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 40th anniversary of the legal proceedings that led to court-ordered busing to desegregate Boston Public Schools. Created Equal: Striving toward Justice for All was a moderated discussion between former Congressman Barney Frank, former Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Margaret Marshall, Rutgers Law Professor David Dante Troutt, and editor and publisher of The Nation magazine Katrina vanden Heuvel. The panel was deftly moderated by Todd Purdum, national editor of Vanity Fair.
categories: symposium, video

Shifting Gears

In 1986, Mass Humanities launched its first major statewide project, in partnership with the Heritage State Parks, that focused on six once prosperous manufacturing communities and provided residents with a powerful record of their hometown memories though the lens of the ever-changing nature of work in Massachusetts. The project placed scholars-in-residence in six once-prosperous manufacturing centers to work with local groups to examine the values associated with different kinds of work and their role in determining individual and community identity. Oral history interviews from Gardner, Lawrence, North Adams, Blackstone River Valley, and Holyoke have now been transcribed and are available online.
categories: material, web

Still Present Pasts

Still Present Pasts: Korean Americans and the “Forgotten War” is a multi-media exhibit of installation and performance art, documentary film and archival photographs, and oral histories that explores memories and legacies of the Korean War. Embodying life stories of ordinary Korean Americans who experienced the war, the exhibit is a public space of remembering that breaks the silence about a tragic episode in U.S. and Korean history. GRANT DETAILS
categories: exhibit, web

Mass Moments

A daily almanac of Massachusetts history on the web, delivered via email, rss feed or podcast. Visitors to the Mass Moments website can choose to listen to a one-minute audio spot or read the script, and then explore the story further by reading a background essay and clicking on a primary source document, links to follow, and places to visit.
categories: web

E Pluribus Paralysis: Can We Make Our Democracy Work?

The 10th annual Mass Humanities Symposium held on November 9, 2013 at Boston College focused on constructive ideas for making American democracy work at a time when “the corrupting influence of money, the manipulation of elections and the enduring legacy of social, racial and gender divisions have eroded confidence in America’s political system.”

Session 1:  Capital Ideas:  Reducing the influence of money in our democracy Panelists: Thomas Mann, Zephyr Teachout, Alan Wolfe, Jane Clayson (moderator)
Session II:  Righting Voting Wrongs:  Making our republic more democratic Panelists: Heather Gerken, Alexander Keyssar, Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Jane Clayson (moderator)
Session III:  Bending the Arc of History:  Toward equality and democracy Panelists: Reniqua Allen, Kenneth Feinberg, Glenn Loury, Jane Clayson (moderator)

categories: symposium, video

State House Women’s Leadership Project

Mass Humanities initiated the State House Women's Leadership Project in 1995. The first step was to commission a new piece for the State House Art Collection to honor the contributions of six women. A virtual tour of the art work is available on this site; you can view the portraits, read the captions, and learn more about the women honored.
categories: exhibit, web

Laura Jernegan: Girl on a Whaleship

In October,1868, Laura Jernegan, a 6 year old girl from Edgartown, Massachusetts set out on a three year whaling voyage with her father, mother, brother, and the ship's crew to the whaling grounds of the Pacific Ocean. This website, produced by the Martha's Vineyard Museum, tells the story of Laura Jernegan and the journal she kept on her voyage. It also tells the adventurous history of whaling. GRANT DETAILS
categories: web

The Shipwrecks of Boston

A website based on its Boston Harbor Shipwreck Chart and companion book, "Shipwrecks and Nautical Lore of Boston Harbor," including primary source documents and images for each wreck. GRANT DETAILS
categories: web

Scribbling Women

A project of The Public Media Foundation funded in part by a grant from Mass Humanities, dramatizes stories by American women writers for national radio broadcast. This site provides classroom resources for teaching the rich tradition of American literature by women. GRANT DETAILS
categories: teacher, web

Mass Memories Road Show

Mass. Memories Road Show is a state-wide digital humanities project that documents Massachusetts history through family photographs and stories. Since its launch, the project has gathered thousands of photographs and stories from across the state. Funded over many years through a grant and Mass Humanities partnerships. GRANT DETAILS
categories: web

Making the World Better: The Struggle for Equality in 19th Century America

A free curriculum packet produced in connection with the State House Women's Leadership Project. Designed primarily for middle- and high-school students, the curriculum was developed by the Mass Humanities and the Tsongas Industrial History Center at the University of Massachusetts/Lowell.
categories: material, teacher


Storytelling programs in public high schools enhancing intellectual and public speaking skills and culminating in regional "story slam" competitions. GRANT DETAILS
categories: video, web

A Song of Hope: The Life Story of Pauli Murray

A trailer for the Mass Humanities funded documentary-in-progress that tells the story of Pauli Murray (1910-1985), a tireless human rights champion ahead of her time. In the early 1940s, Murray was staging non-violent “stool-sitting” actions in Washington DC restaurants. A founding member of NOW, Murray led the charge for recognition of Jane Crow, her term for double discrimination that minority women faced. At retirement age, Murray left a Brandeis faculty position to attend divinity school, later becoming the first woman priest of the Episcopal Church. GRANT DETAILS
categories: funded film

Mind the Gap: Economic Inequality and Our Democracy

Mass Humanities' annual symposium held on November 3, 2012 in the Heights Room, Corcoran Commons at Boston College explores economic, political, social, and public policy aspects of economic inequality in the U.S.

Session 1: The Causes and Effects of Increasing Economic Inequality
Thomas Frank, James K. Galbraith, Scott Winship, Michael Jonas (moderator)
Session II: The Role of Education in Inequality in America
Andrew Delbanco, Heather Beth Johnson, Barry O'Connell, Rhonda Cobham-Sander (moderator) Session III: What, If Anything, Should Be Done?
Glenn Loury, Timothy Noah, Will Wilkinson, Mark Santow (moderator)

categories: symposium, video

No Pretty Prayer

A video sample of the documentary strand of the Down the Fort multimedia public history project about “the Fort,” a traditional Sicilian fishing enclave adjacent to the historic Gloucester harbor. GRANT DETAILS
categories: funded film, video

Cyberspace & Civic Space: The Impact of the Internet on Our Democracy

Mass Humanities' annual symposium held on November 19, 2011 in Robsham Theater at Boston College explores the political, social, and cultural impacts of the Internet on democracy.

Session 1: The Political Impact of the Internet
Mike Klein, Evgeny Morozov, Eli Pariser, Charles SteelFisher, Callie Crossley (moderator)
Session II: The Social Impact of the Internet
Kate Crawford, Virginia Heffernan, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Cullen Murphy (moderator)
Session III: The Cultural Impact of the Internet
Hiawatha Bray, Jonathan Zittrain, Chris Csikszentmihályi, Charles Kravetz (moderator)

categories: audio, symposium, video

A Whole World Opens Up

Glimpse into the lives of Martine Amazan and Angel Gonzalez, and learn how the Clemente Course which provides free college level courses in the humanities have transformed their lives. Learn more about the Clemente Course in the Humanities.
categories: video

Soldiers & Citizens: Military and Civic Culture in America

Mass Humanities Fall symposium focusing on military and civic culture held on November 7, 2009 at Boston College. Listen, watch or read the three sessions.

Session 1: Diversity in Uniform: Race, Gender, Class, Sexuality and Religion in the Armed Forces
Col. Charles Allen, Missy Cummings, Nathaniel Frank, Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein, Chris Appy (moderator)
Session II: United We Serve: The All Volunteer Force, National Service and Democracy
Col. Charles Allen, Larry Korb, Paul Rieckhoff, Cullen Murphy (moderator)
Session III: Cultural Influences: The Military, Politics and Society in 21st Century America
Rick Atkinson, Andrew Bacevich, Sarah Sewall, Rachel Maddow (moderator)

categories: audio, symposium, video

Boston Women’s Heritage Trail

Discover more than 200 Boston women in a wide variety of settings, occupations, and backgrounds in a series of seven walking tours.

categories: app, walking tour, web

Mount Auburn Cemetery Walking Tour Web App

Mount Auburn Cemetery is a National Historic Landmark, a museum with many unique collections, a botanic garden, a wildlife refuge, and an active cemetery. You can now explore the hills, valleys, ponds and meadows throughout our 175 acres, and experience the stories of history, horticulture, and the lives of those now buried here all from your phone. GRANT DETAILS
categories: app, walking tour, web

The Most Dangerous Man in America

Mass Humanities awarded a pre-production grant for a feature-length documentary focusing on Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower who released the Pentagon Papers. GRANT DETAILS
categories: funded film, video

Traces of the Trade

In the feature documentary Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North, filmmaker Katrina Browne discovers that her New England ancestors were the largest slave-trading family in U.S. history. She and nine cousins retrace the Triangle Trade and gain powerful new perspectives on the black/white divide. Mass Humanities funded a discussion version of the film targeted to the educational market. The website has film clips, discussion guides, and a discussion forum. GRANT DETAILS
categories: funded film, video, web

A Healing Landscape: Environmental and Social History of the Site of the Boston Nature Center

The Boston Nature Center, with the help of Mass Humanities, embarked on an extensive history project to tell the diverse and rich story of the land they now steward. The resulting book, A Healing Landscape: Environmental and Social History of the Site of Mass Audubon's Boston Nature Center by historian Steven Pavlos Holmes, Ph.D., tells the stories of the people who have lived and worked on the land over the past two centuries—including early farming families, a Revolutionary war soldier, pioneering birdwatchers, the residents and staff of the Boston State Hospital, and, of course, the Clark Cooper Community Gardens and Mass Audubon. GRANT DETAILS
categories: material

What’s the Big Idea?

A website introducing middle school students to philosophy through film. The website provides middle-school students and their teachers with the opportunity to engage in a range of philosophical discussions on such topics as bullying, lying, and environmental ethics. GRANT DETAILS
categories: teacher, video, web

We Shall Not Be Moved

An on-going multimedia documentary project tells the story of a growing grassroots movement that is using the power of bringing people together to help keep families in their homes after foreclosure. GRANT DETAILS
categories: audio, video, web

Thoreau Country: Mapping Henry David Thoreau’s Travels in Massachusetts

Mapping Thoreau Country website uses historical maps to organize and interpret images, documents, and information related to Henry David Thoreau's travels throughout the United States. GRANT DETAILS
categories: web

One Nation Under God? The Role of Religion in American Public Life

Mass Humanities' annual symposium held on November 22nd, 2008 in the Robsham Theater at Boston College. Seven big-time editors and reporters, one celebrated blogger, and a former presidential press secretary met on the stage of Robsham Theater to consider the latest puzzles, annoyances, and threats facing the mainstream media.

Session 1: How Religion Shapes American Culture
Mark Lilla, Jon Meacham, Peter J. Paris, Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, Alan Wolfe
Session 2: Religion and Electoral Politics
Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr., Amy Sullivan, Steven Waldman, Hanna Rosin
Session 3: Religion, Morality, and the Law
Stephen Carter, Daniel C. Dennett, Susannah Heschel, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Michael J. Sandel

categories: audio, symposium, video

Democracy & Dissent

In 1992, Eugenia Kaledin and other residents of Lexington formed the Lexington Oral History Project to preserve the memory of an important event that a mere 20 years had all but erased. The LOHP’s work led to the prizewinning film Unfinished Symphony, which was shown at the Sundance Film Festival in 2001. When an exhibit on the 1971 antiwar protests and subsequent arrests on Lexington’s Battle Green was indefinitely postponed during the Persian Gulf War, the exhibit evolved into an online compendium of information on the events that rocked Lexington on Memorial Day weekend, 1971. The Democracy & Dissent project catalogues 66 video interviews with veterans, onlookers, clergy, and town politicians. Also noteworthy are transcripts of the Board of Selectmen’s meetings surrounding the Memorial Day weekend protests. It’s easy to imagine any one of the fascinating stories above relegated to the footnotes and sidebars of modern school books. GRANT DETAILS
categories: web

Life During Wartime

Rachel Maddow's keynote address at the 2009 Mass Humanities Benefit Dinner on November 7 at Boston College.
categories: audio

Is America in Decline?

Mass Humanities' annual symposium held on December 4, 2010 in the Heights Room in Corcoran Commons at Boston College. What made/makes America exceptional? Is America in decline? What does that mean exactly? Relative to what/whom? What are the major causes of decline? Which of these are within our power to correct? Is decline inevitable? How have other empires dealt with decline? What are our unique strengths? Can America rise again? How?

Session 1: American Leadership Abroad
Peter Beinart, Gregg Easterbrook, Carol Graham, Paul Starobin
Session 2: The Promise of America at Home
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Alexis Gelber, Peniel Joseph, Reihan Salam

categories: audio, symposium, video

100 Faces of War

Explore the project of oil portraits of American soldiers and civilians who have returned from the theaters of war in Iraq and Afghanistan and their personal statements on the 100 Faces of War website. Mass Humanities funded an exhibition of oil portraits of American soldiers and civilians who have returned from the theaters of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, at the Springfield Armory Museum; and related programming and materials. GRANT DETAILS
categories: exhibit, web