History Bites is a series of thirty minute lectures to inform and entertain, covering various aspects of the history of Amherst and the lives of those who once lived here.
Bring your lunch, and we provide coffee, tea and cider for you as you listen to the presentations. The programs begin promptly at 12:15 with seating and beverages ready just before noon. The lectures are free and everyone is welcome to attend.
Thanks to the work of our dedicated trustees, you can view archived video of past History Bites lectures here.
Fall Lecture Schedule
October 11 Jews and Puritans in Early America
When the early New England Puritans chose to reject the excessive ritual and structure of the Roman Catholic and established Anglican churches, they went back to the Bible for guidance and found a ready-to-hand model for governance in its depiction of the Old-Testament Jews. But the colonists’ relations with contemporary Jews were more problematic, as was the effort to apply Biblical law to their everyday problems and the issues involved in transatlantic trade.
Dr Michael Hoberman of Fitchburg State University is the author of New Israel/New England. He will share the findings of his historical studies in the American colonial era.
October 25 Scars of Slavery
On July 4, 1863, one of the most widely read magazines in the country during the Civil War published an image capturing the abhorrent cruelties of slavery — the side portrait of an escaped slave with terrifying, streaking scars across his back caused by a whipping from his owner.
The day after the Battle of Gettysburg ended, Harper’s Weekly published “A Typical Negro,” which included the image of the tortured former slave. He was misidentified as Gordon (his name was Peter), and the photo was accompanied by a narrative that bore little resemblance to the facts.
It did, however, provide readers in the North with some of the most powerful visual evidence of the wickedness of slavery and the abuses that slaves endured.
Recent research by Bruce Laurie, professor emeritus of history at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, into two local men who fought for the Union Army during the Civil War era — Henry S. Gere of Northampton and Marshall S. Stearns of Northfield — provided new clues about the true identity of the former slave brought to national attention by Harper’s.
November 8 Native American/King Philips War
Dr Christine DeLucia will discuss her new book, Memory Lands, in which she offers a major reconsideration of the violent seventeenth-century conflict in northeastern America known as King Philip’s War, providing an alternative to Pilgrim-centric narratives that have conventionally dominated the histories of colonial New England. DeLucia grounds her study of one of the most devastating conflicts between Native Americans and European settlers in early America in five specific places that were directly affected by the crisis, spanning the Northeast as well as the Atlantic world. She examines the war’s effects on the everyday lives and collective mentalities of the region’s diverse Native and Euro-American communities over the course of several centuries, focusing on persistent struggles over land and water, sovereignty, resistance, cultural memory, and intercultural interactions.
November 22 The Lincoln-Sunset historic district
This neighborhood includes modest farm houses lived in by members of the 19th century Black community and Irish immigrants, as well as houses that were home to college faculty members, businessmen, and other professionals and their families. Amherst College faculty member Robert Frost purchased a home in this neighborhood in 1931. It was named a Historic District by the town in 2017.