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VIRTUAL EVENT: PANEL DISCUSSION: Confronting Racial Injustice: Slavery, Wealth Creation, and Intergenerational Wealth

Thursday, February 18, 2021 - 6:00pm to 7:00pm
Free and open to the public


Panel Discussion: Confronting Racial Injustice: Slavery, Wealth Creation and Intergenerational Wealth

Nicole Maskiell, University of South Carolina; Elon Cook Lee, National Trust for Historic Preservation; moderated by Jared Hardesty, Western Washington University

This program is in partnership with Northeastern University Law School Criminal Justice Task Force

Please note this program with be hosted by the Massachusetts Historical Society. Please contact with any questions. 

The goal of this five-part virtual series is to explore historical events in Massachusetts history in order to probe how slavery, racism and their legacies have and continue to influence the criminal justice system.

From the seventeenth century to the twenty-first, slavery has been central to creating wealth and generating race-based inequality in Massachusetts. Family fortunes, institutional endowments, and public budgets in the commonwealth have all benefitted from the spoils of slavery. This panel discussion between academic and public historians explores Massachusetts’s connections to slavery and the slave trade, the wealth--and the poverty--slavery created and bequeathed, and how the legacies of slavery are reflected in injustices that haunt Massachusetts to this day.

Nicole Maskiell specializes in early American history, with a focus on overlapping networks of slavery in the Dutch and British Atlantic worlds. Her current book project entitled Bound by Bondage: Slavery and the Creation of a Northern Gentry compares the ways that slavery shaped the development of elite Northern culture by examining the social and kinship networks that intertwined enslavers with those they enslaved. Professor Maskiell is a recipient the John Carter Brown, Gilder Lehrman, and Huntington Mayers research fellowships, and her dissertation was nominated for the 2014 Allan Nevins Prize.

Elon Cook Lee is a public historian and race womanist. She is the program director and curator at the Center for Reconciliation. Elon also serves as the humanities consultant for the Robbins House, a member of the National Advisory Committee for Old Salem Museums and Gardens, and a board member for Rhode Island Public Radio. Through her consulting business, Liberation Heritage, she has trained hundreds of historic site interpreters across the country on interpretation theory and the development of slavery programs that center Black humanity. Elon is a genealogist, Brown University educated public historian, a National Association for Interpretation certified workshop developer and instructor (CIGT), the 2018-2020 Andrew W. Mellon RISD Museum Faculty Fellow, and teaches undergraduate courses on slavery, race and public memory at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Through her one-on-one and small group coaching sessions Elon guides executive level professionals through diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging challenges. She uses workshops, walking tours and exhibitions that were developed using feminist, anti-oppression frameworks, to improve the discourse around forgotten or erased elements of United States history. She loves engaging the public with challenging historical narratives, and opening hearts, and changing minds one conversation at a time.

Jared Ross Hardesty is associate professor of history at Western Washington University and a scholar of colonial America, the Atlantic world, and the histories of labor and slavery. He is the author of Unfreedom: Slavery and Dependence in Eighteenth-Century Boston (New York: NYU Press, 2016), which explores the relationship between slavery and other forms of dependence in eighteenth-century Boston, and Black Lives, Native Lands, White Worlds: A History of Slavery in New England (Amherst & Boston: Bright Leaf, 2019). His articles and book reviews have appeared in The Journal of Global Slavery, Early American Studies, Slavery & Abolition, The Journal of Early American History, The New England Quarterly, The William & Mary Quarterly, Itinerario, and Common-place. All of his peer-reviewed publications have examined the economy, social structure, and global entanglements of the eighteenth-century British Atlantic world. His current research project examines the murder of an eighteenth-century slave trader, smuggler, and chocolatier and is entitled The Case of the Rising Sun: A Tale of Smuggling, Murder, and Chocolate in Early America.

Series Calendar

March 11, 2021
Redlining: From Slavery to $8 in 400 Years

In 2015 the Boston Federal Reserve found the median net worth for black families in Boston was $8 versus $250,000 for white families, largely driven by the gap in home ownership.  Join community activists and urban planners as they discuss Boston’s history of redlining and discriminatory housing policies, the complicity of the banks and the real estate industry, the legacy of segregation and racial wealth disparity, and some specific actions we can take to address the inequities in home ownership.

April 15, 2021
Boston School Desegregation through the Rearview Mirror

In 1972, a group of African-American parents sued city and state officials over segregation within the Boston Public Schools.  After a trial, a federal court determined that the Boston School Committee had intentionally discriminated on the basis of race by operating a dual school system that extended to school assignments, facilities and staffing.  When officials failed to produce a timely remedy, the court ordered institutional reforms, including re-districting and the re-assignment of students.  In this program, panelists will reflect on the lessons to be learned from Boston’s school desegregation experience.

May 19, 2021
The War on Drugs in Massachusetts: The Racial Impact of the School Zone Law and Other Mandatory Minimum Sentences

In the 1980's, Massachusetts embraced The War on Drugs, enacting harsh mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. It took decades to confront the reality that, in addition to being ineffective and costly, mandatory minimums resulted in the pervasive and disproportionate incarceration of Black and Brown people.  Panelists will discuss this troubling history, recent reforms, and the prospects for implementing drug policies that are effective, fair and just.

June 9, 2021
The Charles Stuart Case: White Lies and Black Lives

Sponsored by:

Northeastern University School of Law
Massachusetts Historical Society
Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston
Boston Athenæum
Boston College Law School
Boston University School of Law
Dorchester Historical Society
Flaschner Judicial Institute
Jamaica Plain Historical Society
King’s Chapel
Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association
Massachusetts Black Women Attorneys
Massachusetts School of Law at Andover
Museum of African American History
New England Law/Boston
Rappaport Center for Law and Public Policy at Boston College Law School
Roxbury Historical Society
Royall House & Slave Quarters
South Asian Bar Association of Greater Boston
Suffolk University Law School,
The UU Urban Ministry
Trinity Church Boston
Tufts University
University of Massachusetts School of Law
West End Museum
Western New England Law School

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Auto-generated captions are available for most virtual programs. To request live captioning or other accommodations, please contact Hannah Weisman at or 617-720-7617 at least four business days prior to the event.