Monday, May 24, 2021

Virtual Author Talk: Joseph M. Bagley

We hope you’ll join us on Thursday, June 3, for an author talk with Joseph M. Bagley, City Archaeologist of Boston. Joe previously spoke at the State Library about his first book, A History of Boston in 50 Artifacts, and we are delighted to welcome him back for a virtual talk about his newest book, Boston’s Oldest Buildings and Where to Find Them. This event is presented in partnership with American Ancestors/New England Historic Genealogical Society, and Joe will be joined in conversation by Curt DiCamillo, Curator of Special Collections at NEHGS. 

The first book to survey Boston’s fifty oldest buildings, this work by the city archaeologist and historic preservationist is a great guide for history lovers, architectural enthusiasts, and tourists. In an
approachable narrative which will appeal to non-architects and those new to historic preservation, Joseph M. Bagley tours fifty buildings that pre-date 1800 and illustrate Boston’s early history. Approaching its four-hundredth anniversary, Boston continues to shift with near-constant development; still, it maintains its historic character. Don’t miss hearing from an expert and insider about the city’s unique character, its historic areas and oldest buildings.

Joseph M. Bagley is the City Archaeologist of Boston, a historic preservationist, and staff member of the Boston Landmarks Commission. He has worked previously for the Massachusetts Historical Commission and Maine Historic Preservation Commission. In 2016 Joe published the award-winning A History of Boston in 50 Artifacts.

Curt DiCamillo, FRSA is the Curator of Special Collections at New England Historic Genealogical Society. Before joining NEHGS, he worked for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the National Trust for Scotland. He is a recognized authority on the British country house.

To register for this free online event, please visit:   

And be sure to check out the other upcoming author events hosted by our partner:  

Author Talks Committee
State Library of Massachusetts

Monday, May 17, 2021

Virtual Author Talk: Dr. Jarvis R. Givens

Dr. Jarvis R. Givens
Join the State Library in partnership with the Boston Public Library, the Museum of African American History (MAAH), and Black Educators' Alliance of Massachusetts (BEAM) for an online conversation with Dr. Jarvis R. Givens, author of Fugitive Pedagogy: Carter G. Woodson and the Art of Black Teaching, and BEAM President Dr. Kim Parker. This online event will begin at 7pm on Wednesday, June 2, and is free and open to all.

Fugitive Pedagogy is a fresh portrayal of one of the architects of the African American intellectual tradition, whose faith in the subversive power of education will inspire teachers and learners today. Black education was a subversive act from its inception. African Americans pursued education through clandestine means, often in defiance of law and custom, even under threat of violence. They developed what Jarvis Givens calls a tradition of “fugitive pedagogy”―a theory and practice of Black education in America. The enslaved learned to read in spite of widespread prohibitions; newly emancipated people braved the dangers of integrating all-White schools and the hardships of building Black schools. Teachers developed covert instructional strategies, creative responses to the persistence of White opposition. From slavery through the Jim Crow era, Black people passed down this educational heritage.

There is perhaps no better exemplar of this heritage than Carter G. Woodson―groundbreaking historian, founder of Black History Month, and legendary educator under Jim Crow. Givens shows that Woodson succeeded because of the world of Black teachers to which he belonged: Woodson’s first teachers were his formerly enslaved uncles, he himself taught for nearly thirty years, and he spent his life partnering with educators to transform the lives of Black students. Fugitive Pedagogy chronicles Woodson’s efforts to fight against the “mis-education of the Negro” by helping teachers and students to see themselves and their mission as set apart from an anti-Black world. Teachers, students, families, and communities worked together, using Woodson’s materials and methods as they fought for power in schools and continued the work of fugitive pedagogy. Forged in slavery, embodied by Woodson, this tradition of escape remains essential for teachers and students today.

Dr. Jarvis R. Givens, a native of Compton, California, is an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, a faculty affiliate in the department of African & African American Studies, and the Suzanne Young Murray assistant professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Givens earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. He is a Mellon Mays, Ford Foundation, and Gates Fellow. Jarvis Givens is a co-director of a major new research project called The Black Teacher Archive with Imani Perry, PhD, of Princeton University. Givens is also the co-editor of We Dare Say Love: Supporting Achievement in the Education Life of Black Boys. He lives in Roxbury, Massachusetts.

Dr. Kimberly N. Parker is an educator, literacy consultant, and writer based in Boston and holds a steadfast belief in the power of literacy to normalize the high achievement of all students, especially Black, Latinx, and other children of color. Dr. Parker is currently the Director of the Crimson Summer Academy at Harvard University and the president of the Black Educators’ Alliance of Massachusetts.

To register for this online event, please visit:

And don’t miss the other upcoming author events hosted by our partners!

Author Talks Committee
State Library of Massachusetts

Monday, May 10, 2021

May Virtual Author Talk: Skip Finley

Join the State Library in partnership with the Boston Public Library, the Museum of African American History (MAAH), and American Ancestors/New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) for an online conversation with Skip Finley, author of Whaling Captains of Color: America's First Meritocracy. Priscilla H. Douglas, Chair of the Boston Public Library Board of Trustees, will provide opening remarks for this online talk, which is free and open to all.

The history of whaling as an industry on this continent has been well-told in books, including some that have been bestsellers, but what hasn’t been told is the story of whaling’s leaders of color who pursued the hard road of the whaling industry to avoid slavery. Whaling was one of the first American industries to exhibit diversity: a man became a captain not because he was white or well connected, but because he knew how to kill a whale. Along the way, he could learn navigation, reading, and writing. Whaling presented a tantalizing alternative to mainland life.

Working with archival records at whaling museums, in libraries, from private archives and interviews with people whose ancestors were whaling masters, Finley culls stories from the lives of over 50 black whaling captains to create a portrait of what life was like for these leaders of color on the high seas.

Skip Finley is a former broadcasting executive who was responsible for over 40 U.S. radio stations and experienced success in all areas of radio. Attempting retirement since age 50, he keeps returning to communications, currently in marketing at the Vineyard Gazette Media Group on Martha's Vineyard, where he summered since 1955, deciding to become a writer. For five years Finley wrote the weekly Oak Bluffs Town Column and is a contributor to several publications in the areas of whaling and history. 

To register for this online event, please visit: 

Be sure to check out the other upcoming author events hosted by our partners:

Author Talks Committee
State Library of Massachusetts

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Friends of the Library Newsletter - May issue

The May issue of the Friends of the Library newsletter is out! Click here to download your own copy.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Star-gazing in Massachusetts: Now and Then

In the last year, more and more Massachusetts citizens have headed outside to remain active while working remotely and social distancing. While our commonwealth offers a ton of outdoor activities to fill your days, there is also one to fill your nights: star-gazing. 

Humans have looked up to the stars for as long as we have populated the Earth, noticing patterns and weaving stories, as well witnessing meteor showers or eclipses and contemplating their meaning. In what is now the United States, there is some evidence to suggest that Northeastern Native American tribes such as the Iroquois and the Algonquin not only paid deep attention to astronomical happenings, and may have been the first to witness a cluster of stars known as the Pleiades. After English settlers colonized the area and founded Harvard College in 1636, the college’s printing press began printing almanacs with astronomical information in 1639. These almanacs included information on the phases of the moon, tide tables, and even projections on the best time to plant crops based on astronomy. The Enlightenment in Europe popularized the pursuit of scientific exploration around this period, and colonial Americans, especially New Englanders, enjoyed star-gazing as a popular pastime with the help of these astronomical almanacs.

Illustration from The Mariner's New Calendar (1763).

Today, we wish we still had astronomical almanacs to find out when, where, and how to witness astronomical events. Some of you may even have witnessed the Super Pink Moon the evening of April 26th last week, and wondered, “What else is happening in the sky that I don’t know about?” Others may have missed this phenomenon and hoped that it might happen again soon – and don’t worry, it will! 

There are several resources you can use to track astronomical events so you don’t miss another meteor shower, supermoon, or eclipse. Websites like keep a running tab on what is happening with their “Tonight” page, which shows you what is going on in the night sky right now and what you might be able to witness in your region. You can also find yearly guides like this one from or this one from Sky at Night Magazine, which provides the 2021 dates of upcoming events so you can mark your calendars.

Photograph of Mars taken on September 28th, 1909, by E.E. Barnard,
at the Yerkes Observatory, through a 40 inch telescope.
Courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

But how helpful is knowing when these events are happening if you can’t see them? Light and air pollution can dim our ability to see the night sky clearly depending on where we live. Make sure to consult light pollution maps or lists of the best places to stargaze (like the ones below) to make sure that you are well-positioned to see the stars, planets, and other celestial bodies.

Abbot Academy Astronomy Club circa 1963. Courtesy of
Phillips Academy Andover Archives and Special Collections

Lastly, if you just can’t get enough of the night sky, consider joining a local astronomy club! There are local amateur clubs across the commonwealth that host meetings, viewing nights, star parties, and  stargazing programs. Check for local club information from Boston to the Cape, out to Springfield and even further to Adams, Massachusetts!

Further Reading:

Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff