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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Civility and American Democracy: A National Forum

On February 17, 2012, a group of leading scholars and journalists gathered at UMass Boston to jumpstart a national conversation about the role of civility in our public discourse. Moderated masterfully by WBUR's Tom Ashbrook, “Civility and American Democracy: A National Forum” brought hundreds together in person and thousands more online for a vital discussion that is only just beginning. 
categories: video