Mass Humanities Grant to Support 'Making Change' Programs

Funds to Support Films, Discussions about Activism in Different Time Periods

Historic Newton is pleased to announce that we have received a grant from Mass Humanities for a series of programs, "Making Change: Abolition, Activism, and Social Justice from the 19th Century to Today." The programs about activism, race and social justice in different time periods are planned for the winter of 2021.

“Making Change” will encourage participants to engage critically with the history of social justice movements as they relate to the present day, focusing on the essential question of how change is made in a community. The programs, held at the Durant-Kenrick House and Grounds, will include film screenings and scholar-guided discussions.

The first event will be a screening of “Redeeming Uncle Tom: The Josiah Henson Story,” followed by a discussion of how Harriet Beecher Stowe created the Uncle Tom character in Uncle Tom’s Cabin based on the life of Josiah Henson. A formerly enslaved man, Henson became an activist with ties to the Boston abolitionist community.

The second event will be a screening of segments from “Freedom Riders,” a PBS film, combined with an overview of Judy Frieze Wright and Esther Burgess, two Newton women involved in Civil Rights era activism.

The final event, a panel discussion about suffrage, will look at links between the passage of the 19th amendment allowing women to vote with voter suppression and voting reform in the 21st century.

In all events, audiences will be encouraged to consider the different ways activists have encouraged change in the past, and how their methods compare with the methods used by modern activists.

The grant is also made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the programs do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The mission of Mass Humanities is to lead and support programs using history, literature and other humanities disciplines to improve civic life in Massachusetts. More information may be found at

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