Collaborative Online Exhibits
Radical Equality is the first in a series of online exhibits by the Collaborative’s Emerging America program. Each exhibit showcases gems from the collections of Western Massachusetts museums as we model strategies to engage learners with compelling stories and source material. We aim in part to inspire teachers and students to publish their own communities’ remarkable stories.
How to Engage with the Radical Equality Site
For a brief time, the visionaries of the Northampton Association of Education and Industry (NAEINorthampton Association of Education and Industry) played vital roles in the century-long struggle to end slavery in America. Now the Collaborative and the Historic Northampton Museum, with a team of scholars and teachers, brings this little-known story to a wider public.
Two online exhibits–”Struggle for Freedom” for elementary students and “Communitarian Experiment” for secondary students–present a select group of primary sources, stimulating questions, and engaging tools of analysis and reflection. A Teacher Room in each exhibit offers lesson plans and classroom tips.
Or enter the exhibit through the tabs above:
- Read the Background narrative, enriched with letters and other primary sources.
- Explore Multimedia videos, maps, and timelines.
- Meet the community’s Cast of Characters through summary biographies.
- Or browse the full list of Sources and draw your own conclusions from the evidence.
The Story of Our Partnership
In 2006 our team set out to link the powerful local story of the NAEINorthampton Association of Education and Industry to national themes and events in state and national standards for U.S. History. Supported by a U.S. Department of Education Teaching American History grant, we chose more than 70 primary sources from among hundreds of documents, artifacts, and images in the collections of the Historic Northampton Museum.
Teachers explore an early version of the site and provided input on how best to put the story of the NAEINorthampton Association of Education and Industry to use in classrooms.
The Significance of this Story
The NAEINorthampton Association of Education and Industry story drew us because this local story provides distinctive insights into AbolitionismMovement to abolish/end slavery in the United States that increasingly gained support in the 1830s, 40s, and 50s. and related reform movements of the early 19th Century. Key abolitionists–David RugglesDavid Ruggles was an anti-slavery activist who was active in the New York Committee of Vigilance and the Underground Railroad. He claimed to have led over six hundred people, including friend and fellow abolitionist Frederick DouglassOne of the foremost leaders of the abolitionist movementMovement to abolish/end slavery in the United States that increasingly gained support in the 1830s, 40s, and 50s., which fought to end slavery within the United States in the decades prior to the Civil War. A brilliant speaker, Douglass was asked by the American Anti-Slavery Society to engage in a tour of lectures, and so became recognized as one of America's first great black speakers. He won world fame when his autobiography was publicized in 1845. Two years later he began publishing an antislavery paper called the North Star., to freedom in the North., Lydia Childs, and Sojourner TruthSojourner Truth was born as Isabella Baumfree. She was a slave who was sold several times until she was freed under New York state law. She became an abolitionist and women's rights advocate through her religious activism. Her narrative is the autobiography of her life and experiences.–joined or contributed to the community. William Lloyd GarrisonInspired by the religious revivals of the Second Great AwakeningA series of religious revivals that swept through the United States in the early decades of the 19th century. Religious revivalismA movement to reawaken religious faith and participation through large meetings led by evangelical ministers who encouraged attendees to repent to God publicly. led to many reform movements across the north., Garrison became a ardent abolitionist. Through his speeches and writings in the LiberatorThe Liberator was an abolitionist newspaper founded by William Lloyd Garrison in 1831. The Liberator was a weekly publication published in Boston for 35 years. Although it had a small readership, the Liberator gained nationwide notoriety for its demand for the immediate and complete emancipation of all slaves in the United States., Garrison argued for the immediate abolitionThe theory that slavery should be ended immediately without excuse or exception. William Lloyd Garrison and his followers advocated for immediate abolition. of slavery based on moral wrongs. He also advocated for the participation of women in the movement. summered there with his sister’s family. Frederick DouglassOne of the foremost leaders of the abolitionist movementMovement to abolish/end slavery in the United States that increasingly gained support in the 1830s, 40s, and 50s., which fought to end slavery within the United States in the decades prior to the Civil War. A brilliant speaker, Douglass was asked by the American Anti-Slavery Society to engage in a tour of lectures, and so became recognized as one of America's first great black speakers. He won world fame when his autobiography was publicized in 1845. Two years later he began publishing an antislavery paper called the North Star. and other leaders stopped to enjoy the community’s radical egalitarianism.
Seeking economic as well as political equality, the NAEINorthampton Association of Education and Industry played a brief but important role in the birth of New England huge textile industry. Industrialists associated with the NAEINorthampton Association of Education and Industry founded Northampton’s lucrative silk industry at the community’s former factory.
Central to this exhibit are the many fascinating letters between the ordinary members of the Stetson family. Their correspondence provides a unique view into daily life of a most extraordinary community. We are only able to tell their story because their descendants preserved their letters for more than a century, generously passing them to Historic Northampton in the 1990s. In addition, the site owes a deep intellectual debt to the incisive scholarship on the letters by scholars Christopher Clark and Kerry Buckley.
Bringing the Vision to Life: Acknowledgments
This site exists due to the tireless work of the entire research and design team.
- Rich Cairn, Director of the Emerging America: Teaching American History (TAH) Program led the team.
- Meghan Gelardi Holmes, Assistant Director of the Emerging America: TAH helped lead the team and assembled many of the exhibit’s pieces.
- Kerry Buckley, Executive Director of the Historic Northampton Museum demonstrated great creativity and knowledge of the NAEINorthampton Association of Education and Industry and its world. Historic Northampton Archivist, Marie Panik, and Educator, Lindsey VanDoren provided frequent and essential support.
- Christopher Clark of the University of Connecticut conducted the foundational research on which the site was built.
- Dave Hart and Matthew Mattingly from the UMass Amherst Center for Educational Software Development tapped a decade of experience with local history and the web to generate many of the sites multimedia features.
- Kelley Brown, history teacher at Easthampton High School applied her vital reservoir of classroom experience in writing both the narratives and the high school lessons. Many other teachers contributed feedback and innovative ideas.
- Steve Strimer’s zeal for the nation’s long struggle for justice lent the site passion and conviction.
- Marjorie Seneschal of Smith College broadened the scope of the story with her work on the silk industry.
- Chris Sparks, Lucia Foley, Suzanne Judson-Whitehouse, and Masci Web Design employed much technical and creative wizardry to breathe the creation to life.
- Bruce Laurie and the faculty of the UMass Amherst Department of History gave critical professional guidance and helped to ensure program integrity.
- Cecelia Buckley and the Professional Development Department of the Collaborative provided the platform from which this ambitious project could build.
- Finally, the vision of Congress in supporting the U.S. Department of Education Teaching American History program quite simply made the project possible.