Monday, January 28, 2019

February Author Talk: Linda F. Nathan

When Grit Isn’t Enough: A High School Principal Examines How Poverty and Inequality Thwart the College-for-All Promiseby Linda F. Nathan 
Friday, February 8, 2019—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

The State Library of Massachusetts invites you to our next author talk at noon on Friday, February 8, featuring Dr. Linda F. Nathan, Executive Director of the Center for Artistry and Scholarship, a non-profit affiliated with the Conservatory Lab Charter School in Dorchester. She will be speaking about her latest book, When Grit Isn’t Enough: A High School Principal Examines How Poverty and Inequality Thwart the College-for-All Promise.   

When Grit Isn’t Enough examines the major myths that inform our ideas about education, including the assumptions that college is for all, that race doesn’t matter in higher education, and that hard work and determination are enough to guarantee success. In her book, Dr. Nathan explores the ways in which educators can better serve and support low-income, disadvantaged, and first-generation students.

In addition to When Grit Isn’t Enough, Dr. Nathan is the author of the widely praised book The Hardest Questions Aren't on the Test: Lessons from an Innovative Urban School. Dr. Nathan has previously served as the founding Headmaster of the Boston Arts Academy, Co-Director of Fenway High School, Faculty Director of the Creative Educational Leadership Institute at the Boston University School of Education, and Special Advisor to the Superintendent of Boston Public Schools. Dr. Nathan consults nationally and internationally as a mentor to educators on issues of educational reform, leadership and teaching with a commitment to equity, and the critical role of arts and creativity in schools.

At the conclusion of her talk, Dr. Nathan will be selling and signing copies of When Grit Isn’t Enough ($18, payable by credit card only). We encourage you to register in advance, and we look forward to seeing you on February 8th at the State Library.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Upcoming Author Talks at the State Library:

Monday, January 21, 2019

The “Brigham Addition” and Saving the Bulfinch State House

View of the State House’s Bulfinch building and the
rear Bryant addition c.1880, prior to the construction
of the Brigham addition.
In 1889 the Massachusetts legislature authorized the construction of a larger annex to add more space to the original 1798 State House building designed by architect Charles Bulfinch.  This annex addressed the “practical needs of the growing Commonwealth” and provided much needed space for the State Library and other government offices.  The original plan was that the “extension was to be so constructed as to harmonize with the State House and it was to be built to save the State House,” as most initially felt that it should be preserved as a “landmark for the people.”  By 1892, however, this plan started shifting to one that was considering the possibility of tearing the original building down.

The State House Construction Commissioners were appointed in 1889 to oversee the project.  In their 1892 report to the governor, they expressed concern with the repairs needed to the original building and felt that it made more financial sense to tear it down and construct a new one with the same materials used for the annex, especially since, they argued, the original structure would be so completely changed anyway as a result of adding the annex to the back of the building.  No decision had been reached, and in their December 1893 report to the governor, as the annex, designed by architect Charles Brigham, reached completion, the Commissioners again stated:
The Commissioners feel it their duty to again suggest that the whole State House be made new.  As we said in our report of 1892: “When the extension already authorized is completed, practically nothing of the old part will be left except the Doric Hall with its wings and the halls, rooms and dome above it.  It is some hundred years old.  Its outer walls and wooden finish will not be in keeping with what, while called an extension, will really be five-sixths of the whole building.  The dome is of wood, subject to the impairment of age, and should be of iron.  It is hardly possible that many years will pass before, in any event, this old and most conspicuous part, facing Beacon Street and the Common, will be made new and of equal quality with the rest.  If so, it is to be considered whether this renovation cannot be made better and cheaper now, in conjunction with the work of the extension, than hereafter as a new enterprise.  It is recognized, of course, that no change would ever be permitted in the now historic and always admirable contour and architectural effect of the State House; but we believe the time has come when the front should be rebuilt, preserving its present proportions, and rebuilt now, in connection with the extension.”
View of the State House’s Bulfinch building and Brigham
extension as it appeared in 1903.
Many people were starting to believe that the state house was truly beyond repair—that it had weak foundations, rotted woodwork, and was generally unsafe—while others still felt that preservation was necessary.  There was much public outcry in the form of remonstrances and petitions from all over the state against the recommendations of the Commissioners.  Clement Fay, in an 1894 remonstrance, stated “To reproduce in cold white marble and bright yellow bricks the quaint details of one hundred years ago, we regard as impossible.”  Remonstrant Arthur Rotch worried that Beacon Hill would become “uncrowned” if the “historic building which every sister State envies us is wantonly swept away.”  The minority of the legislative Committee on State House released their own statements that supported preservation over reconstruction.  The year 1895 saw bills filed for and against tearing down the State House, but by the December 1895 report of the Commissioners it became clear that the decision was made to preserve the Bulfinch building and attach the annex to it as originally planned.  In June of 1896, the legislature passed an act that sealed the deal—the Bulfinch portion of the State House would be preserved for future generations.

Relevant documents:

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Librarian

Monday, January 14, 2019

Paul Cuffe of Westport

January 17, 2019 marks the 260th birthday of Paul Cuffe, born on Cuttyhunk Island in 1759. A self-professed “marineer,” he was also an abolitionist, educator, and even helped in the establishment and colonialization of British Sierra Leone by African-American emigrants.

Cuffe was born to a freed slave from Ghana, Kofi Slocum, and a Native American woman named Ruth Moses. “Kofi” is a common Ghanian last name, and Cuffe adapted it as his own family name and persuaded most of his family to do the same. He did not have much of an education past basic reading and writing, but he taught himself about navigation and sailing. As a teenager he worked on whaling and cargo ships and was held prisoner for three months by the British in 1776 during the American Revolutionary War. But the perils Cuffe experienced at sea didn’t stop there: after the Revolutionary War, he was intercepted and robbed by pirates twice during trading voyages. However, his perseverance paid off, and business improved. By 25, he was the master of his own vessel, shipping to Newfoundland, the West Indies, England, and the Baltic. Soon he was building or “caused to be built” several schooners, according to his niece Joan Wainer.

Portrait of Paul Cuffe by Chester Harding
courtesy of  Wikipedia
But despite his success, he still experienced discrimination due to the color of his skin and the color of his crew. He struggled to do business in Virginia and Maryland, where local people worried he would have an “unfavorable influence” on their slaves. Back home, Cuffe fought against racism with the same principles that inspired the American Revolution: “no taxation without representation.”  In 1780, he and his older brother John protested against racial injustice and withheld their poll and property taxes due to the fact that they did not have the right to vote due to their race. They submitted a petition both to the town of Dartmouth and the Massachusetts Legislature that, while not successful, paved the way for the abolishment of slavery in Massachusetts in 1787 and the judicial act granting equal rights and privileges to African-Americans in the commonwealth in 1783.

Petition signed by John Cuffe and Paul Cuffe
regarding taxation (1780), courtesy of the
Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC)
Paul Cuffe and his family became prominent in Westport, which separated from the town of Dartmouth and was incorporated in 1787. He was a member of the Society of Friends and occasionally preached to a multi-racial collection of other Quakers. “Anxious that his children should have a more favorable opportunity of obtaining education than he had had,” he also built a school house on his own land, the first racially integrated school in Westport (A Man Born on Purpose). He wrote to a friend, “I am one of those who rejoice to see good institutions established for the instruction and reformation of our fellow creatures. I approve of the plan for education of young men of color. I think such characters would be useful in Africa” (A Man Born on Purpose).

Africa was certainly on Paul Cuffe’s mind throughout his life. Like many abolitionists at the time, he believed that African-Americans could resettle somewhere in Africa and aid in social and economic development there. Britain had already began resettling the “Black Poor of London,” many of which were African-Americans freed by the British during the American Revolution, in Sierra Leone. Black Loyalists from Nova Scotia were also eager to resettle elsewhere. Cuffe was interested in this option for himself and fellow African-Americans and believed that a colony there could help stop the continuing slave trade in eastern Africa. Persuaded by members of the newly founded African Institution, he set sail on his first expedition to Sierra Leone in 1810. He traveled throughout the colony and made recommendations to the African Institution as to the professions required to successfully create a colony (agriculture, merchanting, and whaling) and expressed concerns regarding the British willingness to work with Americans and subsequent entrepreneurial competition. However, he was more enthusiastic than ever: he traveled to Britain to seek aid for the settlement and helped found the Friendly Society of Sierra Leone. However, with the War of 1812 brewing, he inadvertently found himself in some trouble upon returning to the United States.

A brief account of the settlement and present
situation of the colony of Sierra Leone, in Africa

(1812) by Paul Cuffe. Courtesy of the Special
Collections and University Archives,
UMass Amherst Libraries.
Upon returning to Newport, Rhode Island in 1812, Cuffe’s ship Traveller was seized by US Customs officials. The United States had established an embargo on British goods at the end of 1811, and the officials would not release his ship or his cargo. As a testament to both Cuffe’s reputation and that of his connections, he was able to appeal this decision directly to Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin and President James Madison, who ordered his cargo returned to him. Cuffe also shared his plans regarding Sierra Leone and while Madison was initially interested in the new colony, the break out of the War of 1812 dissuaded him on any further support.

After the War of 1812, Cuffe was finally able to put his plans into motion. In December 1815, Cuffe, his family, and other African-American emigrants numbering 38 in total began the voyage to Sierra Leone.  He and the new immigrants experienced many difficulties with the British government and establishing trade. Much of the endeavor was financed by Cuffe himself, with no support from the African Institution chapters throughout England or America. He also witnessed the ongoing slave trade and was unsure how the colony at Freetown could intervene. He returned to New York in 1816 to discuss the success of the colony and later petitioned the US Congress to fund a return for African-Americans to Sierra Leone, but was unsuccessful.

Unfortunately no mass emigration of African-Americans was ever realized, and Paul Cuffe never returned to Africa. Many African-Americans were reluctant to return to Africa: “They felt that America was their home. Few actually returned” (Rise to be a People). Others preferred Haiti, not Sierra Leone, as a potential colony location. Other pro-emigration organizations like the American Colonization Society supported the measure not for the betterment of African-Americans but, in the words of co-founder Henry Clay, in order to “rid our country of a useless and pernicious, if not dangerous portion of our population… namely free Blacks” (Rise to be a People) and tried to use Cuffe to promote this racist agenda.

Despite these obstacles, Cuffe continued to work toward the interests of African-Americans until his death in 1817. His activism not only worked toward the abolishment of slavery and the right to vote in Massachusetts, but also contributed to the education and religious organization of his community. Eventually his dream of an African-American settlement would also succeed in the establishment of Liberia. The Paul Cuffe Farm is still standing and welcomes visitors and offers a heritage trail for visitors to learn more. Both Governor Patrick and Governor Baker have honored Cuffe with long-overdue proclamations in recent history, and hopefully the story of Westport’s most famous resident will continue to inspire others.

Paul Cuffe Farm in Westport, Massachusetts
courtesy of Wikipedia


Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff

Monday, January 7, 2019

New exhibition: From Common to Uncommon: Advertisements in Massachusetts City Directories

The State Library of Massachusetts invites you to view our first exhibit of 2019: From Common to Uncommon: Advertisements in Massachusetts City Directories.

Most researchers use the State Library’s many thousands of city directories for genealogical and business history research, but the advertisements found within these volumes tell even more fascinating stories. This exhibition features examples of historical advertisements that teach us about the commerce and culture of Massachusetts from the mid-19th through the mid-20th centuries.

The exhibition runs from January 7 through April 30, 2019 and can be viewed outside of the Library, Room 341 of the State House. Library hours are Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

January Author Talk: Jim Hamilton

The Black Cats of Amherst, by Jim Hamilton 
Thursday, January 17, 2019—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

The State Library invites you to our first author talk of 2019, featuring Marshfield author Jim Hamilton, who will speak on January 17th about his new book The Black Cats of Amherst.

Published 100 years after the United States entered World War I, The Black Cats of Amherst tells the story of the WWI ambulance unit that formed in Amherst, Massachusetts, in June 1917 and served with several French army divisions during the war. This well-researched book draws upon diaries, letters, and photographs from the unit and includes many of these photos, along with drawings and maps to provide additional perspective about these ambulance drivers, many of whom were from the Bay State. 

Author Jim Hamilton, a graduate of Amherst College and the Rochester Institute of Technology, is the publisher at Green Harbor Publications. He has written numerous articles, white papers, and books, including the WWII historical book The Writing 69th: Civilian War Correspondents Accompany a U.S. Bombing Raid on Germany during World War II. He is the grandson of Black Cat Hugh Hamilton.

Mr. Hamilton’s talk is free and open to all, and copies of The Black Cats of Amherst will be available for purchase and signing at the conclusion of the talk. For more information about the State Library and our author talk series, please visit our website at

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Upcoming Author Talks at the State Library: