Tag Archives: public history

In the News: Public History Program Helps Dorchester Uncover Its Past

UMass Boston News featured a story about the exciting work that our Public History program has undertaken this spring. Text from the following article was written by UMass Boston News writer, Anna Fisher-Pinkert.

When most people think of Boston history, the images that come to mind are the Old North Church, the brownstones of Beacon Hill, or the Old South Meeting House. UMass Boston history professors and students are working to expand our knowledge and understanding of the history right in the university’s own Dorchester neighborhood through two new projects.

“Building a People’s History of Dorchester.” a community event that occurred in April.

On April 22, Jane Becker, internship coordinator and history lecturer, and Monica Pelayo, assistant professor of history and director of the public history master’s program, collaborated with John McColgan, Archivist, Boston City Archives, to host “Building a People’s History of Dorchester” at the Dorchester Historical Society. The event was designed to encourage current and former Dorchester residents to take part in telling the story of their neighborhood.

Approximately 30 people attended this initial meeting, and contributed ideas for building a timeline of Dorchester history. For Pelayo and Becker, this is just the beginning of a conversation about how to help the community tap into their own history.

“What’s important about this process is that it comes from the bottom up, not from the top down,” Pelayo said.

She added that people don’t always realize that their family photos, documents, or keepsakes are potential historical resources for their communities. Pelayo and Becker plan to have more events in the future to encourage individuals and community organizations to participate in the project.

UMass Boston public history master’s students are also involved in revealing a piece of Dorchester’s history. This semester, students partnered with city archaeologist and UMass Boston alum Joe Bagley to tell the stories of women and girls who lived and worked at the Industrial School for Girls in the 1860s. The school was founded in the 1850s to train poor girls to work as domestic servants.

Online exhibit documenting the history of Dorchester Industrial School for Girls.

The history graduate students wrote about the women and girls at the school, and created a website to share their findings with the public. Much of the information on daily life in the school came from the objects uncovered by Bagley in a 2015 archaeological dig.

Exhibition Opening & Reception: Dorchester’s Industrial School for Girls.

Want to learn more about the rich history of Dorchester Industrial School for Girls?

The graduate students and Bagley will present their findings on May 10 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Massachusetts Archives and Commonwealth Museum.

Join us at this event–it’s free and open to the public.

Please follow and like us:

Beloved UMass Boston Professor and Scholar Passes Away

We mourn the loss of Professor Emeritus James R. Green, who passed away in Boston on June 23 after nearly two years struggling with complications of leukemia.

James Green, Professor Emeritus of History, College of Liberal Arts
Jim Green, Professor Emeritus of History, College of Liberal Arts, UMB.

Jim Green was a prolific scholar and beloved teacher. One student commented:

“Jim Green was my favorite teacher. He inspired us to read, understand and learn from workers’ history. Most of all he showed us he cared about us as students. He was a gift to working people!”


Cover of The Devil is Here in These Hills: West Virginia’s Coal Miners and Their Battle for Freedom (2015).
Cover of The Devil is Here in These Hills: West Virginia’s Coal Miners and Their Battle for Freedom (2015).

His two most recent books received wide acclaim: Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement and the Bombing that Divided Gilded Age America (2006) and The Devil is Here in These Hills: West Virginia’s Coal Miners and Their Battle for Freedom (2015). The latter was the basis for an “American Experience” PBS program, The Mine Wars, broadcast on January 26, 2016; four million viewers tuned in.

A prominent member of a wave of historians who transformed labor history in the 1970s and 1980s, Jim Green deeply influenced the broader field of social history. In 2010, Jim was named Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. Indeed, he was the recipient of many awards, including in April of this year the Labor and Working Class History Association’s Award for Distinguished Service. The text of the award reads in part: “In seven books, many articles, films, exhibits, local tour guides, and other cutting-edge labor education and public history projects, Professor Green has opened new avenues of scholarly inquiry and pioneered new ways to communicate historical narratives to broad audiences.”

Jim received his doctorate in history from Yale University, where he studied with C. Vann Woodward, who proved a model for writing history with a purpose. Jim came to UMB’s College of Public and Community Service (CPCS) in 1977. At CPCS he developed the Labor Studies Program, served as Acting Dean for a year, and held several other positions of academic leadership. In 2006, he joined the Department of History in the College of Liberal Arts, where he founded and directed the Public History Graduate Track, from 2009 until his retirement in 2014.

Not only were Jim’s publications distinguished by their scholarly rigor and depth of analysis, but, as one colleague put it: “Reading his books was like reading novels. He was a marvelous story teller.” Jim worked hard to be that story teller, but he was fundamentally committed to helping people tell their own histories. Jim worked to bring historical scholarship to audiences outside the academy, and democratize the writing and telling of history in both academic scholarship and public venues.  His work across multiple contexts—as university teacher, historian of the labor movement, participant in neighborhood history projects, editor and contributor for the journal Radical Ame51Q8TRWJRJL._SX369_BO1,204,203,200_rica, co-founder of Massachusetts History Workshops, President of the Labor and Working Class History Association (LAWCHA), and partner and collaborator on documentary films–Jim’s personal and professional commitments serve as models for public historians and indeed, all publicly engaged scholarship. Jim tells his own story eloquently in his 2000 publication, Taking History to Heart: The Power of the Past in Building Social Movements.

Jim’s work as a scholar was matched by his devotion to his teaching. Students over the years viewed his courses as life-changing. One former student commented: “Jim Green was my favorite teacher. He inspired us to read, understand and learn from workers’ history. Most of all he showed us he cared about us as students. He was a gift to working people!”

In 2014, Jim Green was interviewed at the UMass Boston Mass. Memories Road Show about his work at UMass Boston and as part of union activities on campus.

In 2011, he donated his papers to University Archives & Special Collections. This collection details his career and activist history from 1964 to 2010. View the finding aid for the James Green papers here.

Jim Green is survived by his wife, Janet Grogan; their son, Nicholas Green of Somerville; his daughter by an earlier marriage, Amanda Green of Cambridge; his former wife, Carol McLaughlin; his mother, Mary Kaye Green; and three siblings and several nieces and nephews.

The family asks that people wishing to honor Jim’s memory to make a contribution either to nurses at the bone marrow transplant ward on Feldberg 7 at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center—send to BI Deaconess Medical Center, Office of Development, 330 Brookline Avenue-OV, Boston, MA 02215, with “James Green/Nursing General Fund” on the memo; or to the “James Green Scholarship in Labor Studies,” and send to University Advancement, UMass Boston, 100 Morrissey Blvd., Boston, MA 02125.

An open house will be held at 5 p.m., Thursday, June 30, in Dr. Green’s Somerville home (72 Mt. Vernon St.). A larger, public memorial gathering will be announced for later in the year.

A great deal more information about Jim can be found at http://jamesgreenworks.com/ obituaries appear in the Boston Globe and New York Times.



Please follow and like us: