This workshop offers an opportunity to revisit the history of Greenfield’s involvement in the Underground Railroad and other anti-slavery activity during the 1800s. It will describe a year long, community-wide project inspired by the belief that Greenfield’s history as a diverse and socially just community is a story that must be told. This project, funded primarily by a grant from the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities in 2007, pulled from the full range of humanities disciplines to engage a wide range of local residents in the local history and tradition of anti-slavery activism and the continued struggle for “liberty and justice for all” in our city and beyond.
The grant partners, Greenfield Human Rights Commission, Greenfield Historical Commission and the Pioneer Valley Institute of GCC, sponsored 10 public events and presentations, in collaboration with many local historians, educators, and human rights activists. This workshop will describe the creative, multi-disciplinary approaches used to make this history accessible to audiences diverse in age and background, including research of original source materials, interactive performances, and the arts including visual art, music and textiles as well as a walking tour of local Underground Railroad and anti-slavery sites.
We will also discuss the process of creating community involvement, excitement, and participation in the planning and implementation of the grant. This raises another level of possible exploration: how can we create enduring grassroots organizations with a social justice mission, enough funding, and a broad impact in the community? What were our successes, our challenges? Keeping the history of anti-slavery activism alive and connected to our present reality is vital to our identity as a just and multi-racial community. How do we persist in raising these issues?
Joan Featherman Bio
Dr. Joan Featherman served as Project Director for The Road to Freedom grant, 2006-2007. She was, at the time of the grant, the Chair of the Greenfield Human Rights Commission and had been a former School Committee member. She is also a singer with the Amandla (now Fiery Hope) Chorus.
In her career, Dr. Featherman has been a founding member of several effective, enduring social change organizations, including NELCWIT and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence among others.
Joan has been a Greenfield resident for over 35 years. She is currently a Psychologist in private practice in Greenfield.