Session 1: July 19-25, 2015
Session 2: July 26-August 1, 2015
Director: Jose R. Torre
To make Rochester's reform history and landscape manageable in a week's time, the National Endowment of the Humanities Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshop will undertake five guided landmark field trips, accompanied by scholarly guest lectures, seminar discussions and readings. The five landmark experiences will be organized around significant themes in Rochester and national reform history:
- Technological and economic change and its relationship to the reform movement.
- The rise of religious reform in western New York – particularly the activism of Presbyterian minister Charles Finney.
- Black activism in Rochester – especially Frederick Douglass's editorial career between 1847 and 1872.
- Women's rights activism and the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848.
- Susan B. Anthony, her efforts for women's suffrage, and the Fifteenth Amendment.
Each field trip includes at least one landmark registered in the National Register of Historic Places or some other designation utilized by the National Park Service to recognize significant historical value.
At the beginning of each week, NEH Summer Scholars will assemble for a Sunday evening dinner, welcome and social hour at the Hyatt Regency in Downtown Rochester. In addition to the director, the introductory session will include public historians from the Susan B. Anthony House, Frederick Douglass Project at the University of Rochester and educators from Strong Museum. We will ask NEH Summer Scholars to share experiences about teaching American reform history in various K-12 school classrooms and about using landmarks to enhance their pedagogy. We will also detail expectations for the workshops and explain the assigned journal and landmark/object interpretive pedagogical assignments (discussed in detail below) that will serve as a capstone for the week.
During the first day we will consider the relationship between Rochester's economic development and its status as a reform capital by taking a walking tour of the city's High Falls-Brown's Race district and the Broad Street Aqueduct, both situated within a single square mile of the Hyatt Regency. The first stop will be the aqueduct, an engineering marvel of the 1820s (the current aqueduct was built in 1842) and a landmark of Rochester's rapidly expanding economy, located only a quarter-mile away from the hotel. The NEH Summer Scholars will enter and tour the aqueduct led by Thomas Hack, the City of Rochester Chief Structural Engineer. The aqueduct is made up of a series of elegant stone arches that support Broad Street (above) so the site is lit by natural daylight and is maintained by city officials. From there, NEH Summer Scholars will tour the High Falls-Brown's Race Historic District. Brown's Race is an early nineteenth century millrace where the city's first and still extant factories were built. Early home to the city's workers and factory operators, it spawned Rochester's first reform efforts (largely temperance and Bible study movements) initiated by charitable benevolent societies worried about class conflict and social control. Brown's Race has a marked walking tour through the well-maintained, displayed and interpreted remnants of the 19th century technologies that drove Rochester's early factories. Both Brown's Race and the Broad Street Aqueduct and Bridge are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
With such landmarks in mind, NEH Summer Scholars will go to Strong Museum for a discussion of some of the key questions about the rise of American reform movements.
- Did technological and economic change create the necessary preconditions for reform activity?
- How did the ideology of progress implicit in internal improvements and massive projects like the aqueduct and the Erie Canal shape contemporary ideas about the perfectibility of humanity?
- How did the early benevolent reform movement – steeped in the language of class and dominated by charitable and temperance institutions – transform into the more radical demands for gender and racial equality?
The background essays will shed light on the way that the Canal set the stage for Rochester's tremendous growth as an urban and reform center before the Civil War; and examine the relationship of charitable and benevolent reform organizations created as a reaction to industrialization, to later more radical movements focused on gender and racial equality. Director Jose R. Torre, Associate Professor of History at the College at Brockport, State University of New York, will lead this discussion and offer a presentation on the online resources available to NEH Summer Scholars wishing to use Rochester documents and images in their classes.
On Tuesday, NEH Summer Scholars will focus on revivalism and reform in Rochester during the 1820s and 1830s. The morning session will feature a presentation by Erik Seeman, Professor of History at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, on Finney's Revivalism in Rochester and Beyond. NEH Summer Scholars will also read selections from Finney's Autobiography, which recounts his epic stay in Rochester in 1830-31 and the way that Rochester's middle-class citizens reacted to his emotional call to perfect the world around them. The director will then lead a discussion on these issues, examining ways that Finney is presented in classroom activities, textbooks and course modules – and ways to update such presentations.
During the afternoon, NEH Summer Scholars will trace portions of Finney's revival circuit on an Erie Canal boat tour to the nearby town of Pittsford, a suburban village that still contains 19th century inns and homes. The canal tour allowed NEH Summer Scholars to see what Finney saw: a rising industrial city born of a transportation revolution that facilitated and inspired the mobility of people as never before. For Finney and many Rochesterians, the Erie Canal inspired Americans to rededicate themselves to moral uplift and reform; it was testament to the tremendous potential of human achievement. The canal tour includes passage through a lock giving the NEH Summer Scholars a unique experience with 19th century engineering. The National Park Service has designated the Erie Canal a National Heritage Corridor.
On Wednesday, NEH Summer Scholars will focus on black activism in Frederick Douglass's Rochester. A former slave who became one of the nation's leading abolitionists and reformers during the 19th century, Douglass moved to Rochester in 1847, where he not only published antislavery newspapers but also operated a station on the Underground Railroad. Douglass owned two different homes in Rochester and raised a family in the city, confronting both the best and worst of northern society: he received incredible support for his antislavery activism but faced some white residents' opposition to enrolling his own children in the local school. In a lecture entitled "North Star Country: Douglass in Two Worlds," Richard Newman, Professor of History at the Rochester Institute of Technology, will examine how Douglass's alternating sense of hope and anxiety about the nation's racial future flowed very much from these mixed experiences in Rochester. The director will then lead a discussion of Douglass in Rochester based on excerpts from Douglass's 1855 autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom; his newspaper, The North Star; and William McFeely's celebrated biography of Douglass.
In the afternoon, the seminar will visit several Douglass landmarks; NEH Summer Scholars will visit the Talman Building where Frederick Douglass published the North Star newspaper and where siblings John and Harriet Jacobs, former slaves and abolitionists, maintained an abolitionist reading room in the 1840s. The tour will then visit Douglass and Susan B. Anthony's gravesites in Mt. Hope Cemetery. The final resting place of numerous Rochester abolitionists, Mt. Hope Cemetery is listed as a landmark in the National Register of Historic Places and in the National Park Services National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. Finally, NEH Summer Scholars will visit the Frederick Douglass Project at nearby Rush Rees Library on the University of Rochester campus. Archivists who work with Douglass's unpublished private papers and other artifacts will offer glimpses into his personal life and reform efforts.
On Thursday, the seminar considers women's activism in the greater Rochester region. Susan B. Anthony, a former schoolteacher, began her Rochester reform career in temperance before she took up her lifelong struggle to achieve women's voting rights. In this endeavor, Anthony was joined by a series of local women's rights advocates and abolitionists (lesser known Rochesterians like Isaac and Amy Post), though none was more important than her long-time activist colleague Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Stanton lived roughly 60 miles away in Seneca Falls, a nineteenth century factory town and milling center built on a canalized portion of the Seneca River. The Anthony-Stanton partnership made the Rochester region the center of women's rights struggles during the 19th century. The morning workshop features a presentation by Carol Faulkner, Associate Professor and Chair of the History Department at Syracuse University, entitled "The Spirit of 1848: From Seneca Falls to Women's Rights Activism Nationally and Internationally." The director will then join Professor Faulkner for a discussion of women's activism in the Rochester region overall. NEH Summer Scholars will read selections from the Anthony-Stanton papers, including Stanton's address to the New York State legislature (presented by Anthony in 1854) asking for the right of women to divorce drunken and abusive husbands, as well as Anthony's essays on abolitionism during the Civil War era. To further examine these key questions – and ways to deal with them in the classroom – we will discuss excerpts from Jean Baker's insightful book, Sisters, which probes the private as well as public lives of both Anthony and Stanton.
In the afternoon, NEH Summer Scholars will take a field trip to the Seneca Falls National Women's Rights National Historical Park. National Park Historian John Stoudt will lead workshop NEH Summer Scholars on a tour through the actual buildings women's rights activists met in, and the NPS maintained Elizabeth Cady Stanton home. Built on the banks of the Seneca-Cayuga Canal, linked to the Erie Canal in 1828, and standing in the shadow of Seneca Fall's textile factories, the home where Stanton raised her children and fought for women's rights brings many of the personal, social and economic workshop themes together.
On Friday morning, NEH Summer Scholars will meet for a final lecture and discussion on the 15th Amendment, which in 1870 provided voting rights to African American men but not black or white women. Alison Parker, Professor of History at the College at Brockport, State University of New York, will offer a presentation on debates over the amendment in the 1870s, both locally and nationally. With Douglass, Anthony and Stanton all living in close proximity to each other, Rochester became a center of heated discussion over voting rights following the Civil War. Though acknowledging its limitations, Douglass believed that the 15th amendment offered black communities a solid political foundation during Reconstruction, one they needed to surmount white racism. Anthony and Stanton felt betrayed and wondered how long-time reformers like Douglass could accept anything short of universal suffrage? After hearing Dr. Parker's presentation, we will read Stanton and Anthony's correspondence on voting rights struggles in the 1870s as well as the National Women's Suffrage Association's "Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States" (1876). We will also examine The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, his final autobiography, in which he revisits local and national divisions over voting rights.
In the afternoon the workshop will tour the Susan B. Anthony House and Museum (designated by the National Park Service as a National Historic Landmark). En route we will stop at the memorial marking the place where Susan B. Anthony voted in violation of the law in 1872. Anthony moved to Rochester in 1849 and used this home as her base until her death in 1906. The Museum exhibit and house tour chronicles her experiences in the reform movement over most of her life. The learning center includes ways in which NEH Summer Scholars might teach the history of the struggle for woman's suffrage and the role that Susan B. Anthony played in that effort. The entire neighborhood has been designated by the City of Rochester as the Susan B. Anthony Neighborhood and is recognized by the Landmark Society of Western New York as one of the last complete nineteenth century communities in Rochester. The nearby Anthony Square Park memorializes the Anthony-Douglass relationship with two life-size bronze statues of the reformers.
Saturday morning we will meet for breakfast and a light lunch while we discuss our experiences over the week. NEH summer scholars will be asked to contemplate and discuss how the workshop will affect their teaching.