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
September 13 Jonathan Edwards
Reverend Peter Ives
Jonathan Edwards (October 5, 1703 – March 22, 1758) was an American revivalist preacher, philosopher, and Congregationalist Protestant theologian. Edwards is widely regarded as one of the America’s most important and original philosophical theologians. Edwards’ theological work is broad in scope, but he was rooted in the Puritan heritage. Recent studies have emphasized how thoroughly Edwards grounded his life’s work on conceptions of beauty, harmony, and ethical fittingness, and how central The Enlightenment was to his mindset. Edwards played a critical role in shaping the First Great Awakening, and oversaw some of the first revivals in 1733–35 at his church in Northampton, Massachusetts. His theological work gave rise to a distinct school of theology known as the New England theology.
September 27 “Stories in Stone”
Ta Mara Conde
There is a cemetery in every town and whether it is a colonial burial ground from the beginning of our country or the modern memorial garden on the outskirts of the city; it holds the history of that town. It tells the story of the people, their attitudes towards death, and the industries in which they worked. The cemetery can even show us the geology of the local landscape. These outdoor museums to the average man hold a wealth of information which is accessible and open to the public. The stones reveal the stories, even the mysteries of the town, through the monuments to the people who lived there and whose stories are written in stone.
Ta Mara Conde is a monument conservator with Historic Gravestone Services with over 18 years’ experience in her field. During her presentation “Stories in Stone”, she will share some of the stories she has found hidden on the stones
October 11 Small Town New England Jews
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.
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.