Monday, March 20, 2023

Author Talk with Jacqueline Jones

Register Online    

  • No Right to an Honest Living: The Struggles of Boston’s Black Workers in the Civil War Era by Jacqueline Jones
  • Monday, April 3, 2023—Noon to 1:00pm
  • State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House
  •  Livestream: 

We invite you to join us at the State Library on Monday, April 3, for an author talk with Pulitzer Prize Nominee and Bancroft Prize Winner Jacqueline Jones. Dr. Jones will be speaking about her latest book, No Right to an Honest Living: The Struggles of Boston’s Black Workers in the Civil War Era

For anyone unable to attend this talk in person, we will be livestreaming this event on our YouTube channel, courtesy of the Massachusetts House of Representatives Broadcast Services.

About the book: No Right to an Honest Living is described by the publisher as a harrowing portrait of Black workers and white hypocrisy in nineteenth-century Boston. Impassioned antislavery rhetoric made antebellum Boston famous as the nation’s hub of radical abolitionism. In fact, however, the city was far from a beacon of equality. In No Right to an Honest Living, Dr. Jones reveals how Boston was the United States writ small: a place where the soaring rhetoric of egalitarianism was easy, but justice in the workplace was elusive. Before, during, and after the Civil War, white abolitionists and Republicans refused to secure equal employment opportunity for Black Bostonians, condemning most of them to poverty. Still, Jones finds, some Black entrepreneurs ingeniously created their own jobs and forged their own career paths. Highlighting the everyday struggles of ordinary Black workers, this book shows how injustice in the workplace prevented Boston—and the United States—from securing true equality for all.

About the author: Jacqueline Jones is the Ellen C. Temple Professor of Women’s History Emerita at the University of Texas at Austin, and she has also previously taught at Wellesley College and Brandeis University. Her fields of study include U.S. labor, urban, southern, African American, and women’s history. She is the author of ten books, two of which were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in History. Dr. Jones has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Bancroft Prize in American History, a MacArthur Fellowship, and the Taft Prize in Labor History, and in 2021 she served as president of the American Historical Association.

Dr. Jones’ talk is free and open to everyone, and those who attend in person will have the opportunity to participate in a question-and-answer session with the author. Additionally, assistive listening devices will be available upon request, courtesy of the Massachusetts State House ADA Coordinator.

If you’d like to learn more about the State Library’s author talk series, including our lineup of future speakers, please visit our website at

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, March 13, 2023

What's in our Reading Room? We’re more than just a pretty face!

If you haven’t visited the State Library before, one of the first things you’ll notice when you walk in--after the high ceilings, beautiful stained-glass windows, and artwork throughout--are the books that line the walls of our reading room on the third floor of the State House. Though these books give the room that “old library feel” and add to the overall look of the space, Reference staff here use them all the time, as do our researchers. So what are those books that we have? Who is allowed to use them? Do you need to wear gloves while handling them? Today we’ll give you a “virtual tour” of the resources in our reading room.

Before we get into that though--all are welcome at the State Library! While we are here to serve the legislature, governor, public officials, and Massachusetts state employees, the library is also open to the general public. Anyone is welcome to use and view our collections or just sit and enjoy our space while doing work. And no--you don’t need permission to take a book off the shelf and you don’t need to wear white gloves when using our materials (but please do make sure your hands are clean and you keep your snacks and beverages in your bag).

When you walk through our doors and look to your right, you’ll notice an elevator which is original to our 1895 reading room. While people cannot ride in it, staff use this elevator to move books between the reading room and the 4th and 5th floors of the library. To the right of the elevator starts our wall of resources that encase the room in its entirety. Some of the first things you’ll see here are the Massachusetts Law Reporter, Massachusetts Digest, Shepard’s Massachusetts Citations, and the current set of official Massachusetts General Laws (in burgundy). You can also look at the unofficial version of the MGL on the Massachusetts Legislature’s website if you’re interested.

After the MGL, you’ll find several volumes of Massachusetts Reports, Supreme Court Reporter, and even the United States Supreme Court Digest. To the right of the entrance as you’re looking out of the library starts our collection of legislative documents and House and Senate Journals. These volumes wrap around most of our Reading Room and definitely help to provide that “old library feel” that so many love. 

The House and Senate Journals contain a record of the daily happenings in the House and Senate and are used quite often. They’re especially helpful when working on a legislative history, which is something that comes up regularly for us. Please note that while the Journals in our reading room start at 1900, you can find earlier volumes of the House Journals online courtesy of the State Archives and earlier volumes of House and Senate Journals in our digital repository.

Next up come the shorter bookshelves along the windows. These shelves contain more House and Senate Journals, plus the Bulletin of Committee Work, which is also helpful when doing a legislative history. On the last side of these short shelves, you’ll find a set of black binders which contain the Code of Massachusetts Regulations, also known as the CMR. The CMR is updated bi-weekly by filings in the Massachusetts Register. You can use our physical copy of the CMR in the Library or you can look at the unofficial copy online via the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries. The State Library also has the Mass Registers available in our digital repository. For more information on the CMR, take a look at our webpage.

After that you’ll come across a couple tall, thin shelves containing Massachusetts Legislative Documents, an assortment of other materials, and then the Annotated Massachusetts General Laws by LexisNexis (black). You’ll then find an assortment of Reference materials, including the Dictionary of American Biography, a facsimile of “Of Plimoth Plantation,” also known as the Bradford manuscript, and a set of books called “Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War.” 

Phew! That was quite the tour around the reading room! Are you still with me? We’ve just got the resources around the Information Desk left to cover. Starting with the shelves that jut out from the Information Desk are Massachusetts Acts and Resolves dating back to 1802 and continuing to the present. These have been digitized and are available in our digital repository, but you are always welcome to use these print copies as well.

Moving on to the front of the Information Desk you’ll find the Annotated Massachusetts General Laws by West (green). You’ll note that we have two different versions of the annotated MGL. While they contain similar information, some people have a preference of one over the other due to variations in citations included in the volumes. I personally like to look at the West and LexisNexis versions when I need to use an annotated version of the MGL--but that is up to you!

Your tour is now complete! Next time you come into the library, take a look around for the resources mentioned in this blog. If you can’t make it into the library, you can always take our virtual tour as well! We covered a lot of information today, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to the State Library with any questions you may have. You can reach us at or by calling 617-727-2590.

Jessica Shrey
Reference Librarian

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Woodpeckers have landed in the library!

Happy March! If you're looking for a little bit of luck this month, you don't need to find a leprechaun, you just need to visit the library through April 4 to see Audubon's Pileated Woodpecker (plate 111) on display! Woodpeckers are seen as a sign of good luck in many cultures and are associated with wishes coming true.

Audubon has depicted the adult male, adult female, and young male woodpecker. They are pictured among the branches of the racoon grape. Read more from Audubon's account here.

Friday, March 3, 2023

State Library Newsletter - March Issue

What do phone chargers, woodpeckers, and the RMV's "History of the Plate" have in common? They're all part of our March newsletter! Pictured here is a preview, but the full issue can be accessed by clicking here. And if you'd like to receive the newsletter straight to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our mailing list.

We're pleased to share that we've recently launched a notification list for our Author Talk series. To sign up for that list, please click here.