Fall Lecture Series

2020 Virtual Fall Lecture Series, October 8-December 10

The National Park Service and Friends of the Longfellow House-Washington’s Headquarters are pleased to announce the 2020 Fall Lecture Series, which will take place virtually. This year’s eight-part series examines histories of social change through the lens of activism, politics, and the arts. Featured speakers include historians, artists, and poets whose work resonates with the unique history of the site.

Portrait of author Susan Ware

Photo courtesy of Susan Ware

October 8 “Activism Begins at Home:” Putting the Cambridge Suffrage Movement in Conversation with the History of Women's Suffrage

Susan Ware
The struggle for women's suffrage lasted almost a century and engaged the energies of three generations of women. Traditional histories have focused on the stories of a few iconic leaders and the national organizations they founded but there is a broad, more diverse suffrage history waiting to be told. Join feminist historian and biographer Susan Ware, author of Why They Marched: Untold Stories of the Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote, to learn how this new history shifts the frame of reference away from the national leadership to highlight the women (and occasionally the men) who made women's suffrage happen in states and communities across the nation. The Cambridge Political Equality Association provides a window on local activism and its relation to the larger movement.
Photo of poet Rajiv Mohabir

Photo courtesy of Blue Flower Arts

Sunday, October 18 @3:00 PM Translating Migrations as Poetic Act

Rajiv Mohabir
In this talk Rajiv Mohabir will discuss the life of the indenture trade in the Western hemisphere and how this labor history has affected concepts of home and belonging. In these multiple migrations and histories India connects with Guyana, Trinidad, Salem, New York, and Florida. Through a poetic journey mooring the only firsthand account of indentured labor from the Anglophone Caribbean to his current practice he will show how survival and resistance emerge in a poetry of naming the unnameable.

October 29 "The Factory of Genocide:" Carcerality and Confinement on Boston Harbor's Deer Island

Mary McNeil
Following historian Kelly Lyttle Hernańdez’s argument that “mass incarceration is mass elimination,” this talk by Harvard PhD Candidate Mary McNeil utilizes a place-based approach to trace the evolution of carceral regimes in Massachusetts and to theorize overlapping Black and Native geographies and histories that are inscribed upon Deer Island. This new research is organized around three flashpoints in the island’s history: the internment of “Praying Indians” in the winter of 1675-1676, the development of modern penal institutions on the island in the late 19th century, and the acceleration of political organizing by individuals incarcerated in Massachusetts’ jails and prisons in the early 1970s.
Front cover of Female Husbands: A Trans History

Photo courtesy of Jen Manion

November 5 Female Husbands and the Expansion of Policing in the 19th Century

Jen Manion
On the eve of war over slavery, Northern elites, reformers, and the police who worked for them viewed transing gender as one of many threats to the social order. Join Jen Manion, author of Female Husbands: A Trans History, for a discussion of female husbands and others who transed gender for work, life, or freedom were subject to increased scrutiny, interrogation, and arrest in the mid to late 19th century.
Cover of "The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution," and author head shot of Lindsay Chervinsky

Photo courtesy of Lindsay Chervinsky

November 12 George Washington, Councils of War, and the Formation of the President's Cabinet

Lindsay Chervinsky
The cabinet isn't in the Constitution, yet every president has worked with a cabinet. So where did it come from? Join Dr. Lindsay Chervinsky, author of The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution, to learn about the origins of the president's cabinet, the importance of the councils of war during the American Revolution, and the role of Longfellow House in this story!
Book cover featuring artist Ife Franklin among trees, with the text "The Slave Narrative of Willie Mae"

Photo courtesy of Ifé Franklin

November 19 The Slave Narrative of Willie Mae

Ifé Franklin
Professional artist and activist Ifé Franklin invites members of the community to a reading of her book The Slave Narrative of Willie Mae. Written in the voice of Franklin’s great-grandmother, Willie Mae McCain, who was born in Virginia on the threshold of emancipation, this narrative brings to life Willie Mae's journey from enslavement to freedom. This book is in the collection of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Cover of To Make Their Own Way in the World: The Enduring Legacy of the Zealy Daguerreotypes

Photo courtesy of Aperture and Peabody Museum Press

December 3 Photography, Slavery, Agency

Matthew Fox-Amato and Ilisa Barbash
Shortly after the 1839 invention of photography, this new medium was embraced by the proslavery cause, while it simultaneously opened up new ways for enslaved people to resist bondage. The scientist Louis Agassiz sought to use daguerreotypes of enslaved people to support and popularize theories of scientific racism. At the same time, some enslaved people were able to acquire their own photographs, which they exchanged and preserved to endure and resist the internal slave trade in the antebellum South. Join Ilisa Barbash (co-editor/co-author) and Matthew Fox Amato (co-author) as they discuss these phenomena outlined in the new book, To Make Their Own Way in the World: The Enduring Legacy of the Zealy Daguerreotypes.
Photo of poet Mark Doty

Image courtesy of Blue Flower Arts

December 10 VERY WELL THEN, I CONTRADICT MYSELF: Walt Whitman on Race, Slavery, Abolition and the Civil War

Mark Doty
Walt Whitman turned away from European models and filled his pages of free verse with American language and American scenes. His early poems in particular are populated with large casts of citizens; women and men both black, white and Native American, the wealthy, the poor and slaves, the able and disabled. His vision is profoundly democratic and inclusive, and his poems are notably anti-racist, arguing for the dignity (and in fact divinity) of all people. Yet Whitman also said some startlingly racist things, in a cancelled passage from his pamphlet DEMOCRATIC VISTAS, and in a number of remarks written down by his assistant later in the poets life. These statement are deeply disappointing to Whitman's readers, and raise questions about the sincerity of Whitman's demoratic ideals.

Last updated: October 10, 2020

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