English Dutch French German Italian Portuguese Russian Spanish


Radical Equality, Project Highlights Abolitionist History of Florence

Published on Wed, 12/08/2010

The Collaborative for Educational Services (CES) and Historic Northampton are pleased to announce the culmination of a four-year joint partnership to educate the public about the heritage of the abolitionist utopian community of the 1840s called the Northampton Association of Education and Industry (NAEI). The partners presented their work at Historic Northampton, 46 Bridge Street, Northampton, at 4:00 pm on October 13 and the site unveiling was reported in the Hampshire Gazette (link to view or print pdf) In the 1990s, Historic Northampton received 75 letters as well as artifacts from the descendents of James and Dolly Stetson, a family that lived at the NAEI. These letters offer an intimate and engaging perspective from the inside of the community. In addition to Dolly and James, several children also wrote about their experiences, dreams, and concerns. “Radical Equality” tells the story of a multi-racial attempt to use silk manufacture as an alternative to slave-grown cotton. Sojourner Truth, David Ruggles, and many less famous lights of the abolitionist movement lived and worked at the NAEI. Frederick Douglass felt a strong connection with the community, and William Lloyd Garrison was a frequent visitor. “The Community,” as it was known, made Florence not only a stop on the Underground Railroad, but for some, an end destination. “Radical Equality” began in part as a way to show teachers how they can engage students in presenting local history to the community. Since 2007, 30 student-teacher teams participating in CES’es Windows on History program have created web sites to showcase local history. The project is funded by a Teaching American History grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Historic Northampton Museum is a museum of regional history in the heart of western Massachusetts. Historic Northampton’s partnership with the Collaborative began with the notion that local history is a lens through which students can view and comprehend larger themes in American history. These letters and documents let students explore historical issues in real time by looking at events as they unfold through the eyes of contemporary observers and participants. Abstract concepts such as “Abolitionism” take on new meaning as students discover how and why real individuals came to embrace this cause and to make personal sacrifices that ultimately altered the course of history.


Rich Cairn

Civics and Social Studies Curriculum and Instruction Specialist, Collaborative for Educational Services
Rich Cairn founded Emerging America in 2006, which features the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program at the Collaborative for Educational Services, and the National Endowment for the Humanities Landmarks of American History program, "Forge of Innovation: The Springfield Armory and the Genesis of American Industry." The Accessing Inquiry clearinghouse, supported by the Library of Congress TPS program promotes full inclusion of students with disabilities and English Learners in civics and social studies education.