Beacon Street Diary

Archives: March 2017

March 28, 2017

Seats are filling up. Don't forget to reserve yours for this week's free lunchtime discussion.

William Goodell (the abolitionist) was a distant relative of William Goodell (the missionary to the Ottoman Empire) and Lucy Goodale. Like his relatives, William Goodell (the abolitionist) was deeply involved with the Congregational Church, which played a central role in the abolition of slavery in the United States.

In 1833 Goodell founded the New York Anti-Slavery Society and the American Anti-Slavery Society. Over the next three decades, he devoted his life to the cause of destroying the sin of slavery (and incidentally, the sin of racism). His descendants continued this trend. Grandson, William Goodell Frost was the third president of the remarkable Berea College (motto: God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth). It was the first school in the south to be coeducational and racially integrated. Frost was at the forefront of struggles against the Jim Crow system in the South. It was Frost who confronted the Kentucky state legislature when it passed a bill in 1904 to segregate Berea College. Frost and the Berea College administration fought this bill all the way to the Supreme Court.

Over the past decade, the study of missionaries from the United States has grown in leaps and bounds. Much of this work presumes that missionaries were always outsiders to the societies they evangelized however their children often grew up speaking local languages without a trace of an accent, and seeing the world through local lenses. This process of acculturation signals that the work of conversion was often a two-way street, and that the experience of living abroad for several generations profoundly shaped communities of missionaries.

In the Middle East, the American missionaries become involved in activities later associated with the Peace Corps, from building schools to carrying out famine relief. In Hawai'i, the American missionaries were involved in the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani and the annexation of the islands to the United States. Finally, in the south of the United States, in the aftermath of the Civil War, missionaries built most of the historically black colleges and struggled against the racism of Jim Crow.

Miller's current research (including sources from the Congregational Library & Archives) brings these strands of missionary history together in the broader framework of world history. Research for his second book follows the story of a single missionary family, the Goodell or Goodale, across three generations from New England to the Ottoman Empire, Appalachian Mountains and Hawai'i.

Thursday, March 30th
12:00 - 1:00 pm

Register through Eventbrite.


image of M. L'Instant, abolitionist from Haiti, an excerpt from "The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840" by Benjamin Robert Haydon, owned by the National Portrait Gallery, via Wikimedia Commons

March 15, 2017

Don't let the snow keep you away. The sidewalks are being cleared, and there are still seats left for tomorrow's free lunchtime lecture.

Lord Mayor Robert Briscoe's Boston Tour

In the spring of 1957, the Jewish Lord Mayor of Dublin, Robert Briscoe, paid a visit to Boston, while on tour of the United States. A religious, Jewish, Irish mayor was an unexpected presence who represented much of what Cold War Americans hoped was possible in their own country: courageous patriotism from members of all parties of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Although little-remembered today, the visit of an Orthodox Jewish Irish mayor created much fanfare and presented a model of citizenship that resonated with Cold War Bostonians.

Rachel Gordan grew up outside of Boston and received her PhD in American religious history from Harvard and her bachelors from Yale College. She teaches American Jewish religion and culture at BU and Brandeis University and is working on a book about postwar American Judaism.

Thursday, March 16th
12:00 - 1:00 pm

Register through Eventbrite.


image of Robert Briscoe, Lord Mayor of Dublin, excerpted from a 1962 photograph of a meeting with President Kennedy, courtesy of The Jewish Chronicle

March 13, 2017

Due to the impending severe snowstorm, our reading room will be closed on Tuesday, March 14th.

All of our online resources will be available as usual. If you have a question you'd like to ask the staff, send an us email or leave a voicemail, and we'll get back to you when we return to the office on Wednesday, March 15th.

We will update this post with any further information, if necessary. You can also keep up-to-date through our Facebook and Twitter feeds.

We hope all of our local patrons are safe and warm.


photograph "Bokeh Snow tree branches in Massachusetts blizzard" by D Sharon Pruitt, via Wikimedia Commons