News and Events

Unless otherwise noted, all lectures and book talks are held in the Slave Quarters located at 15 George Street in Medford, Massachusetts. Visit our Directions and Map page for more information.

Harriet Tubman: Bound for the Promised Land, with Historian Kate Clifford Larson

Wednesday, March 21, 2018 -7:30 p.m.

Known widely as a simple and courageous mother figure, in fact Harriet Tubman was an intelligent, crafty, fearless visionary who transcended assumptions about black women’s abilities, leading scores of enslaved people to freedom. Drawing from a trove of primary documents as well as extensive genealogical research, historian Kate Clifford Larson‘s Bound for the Promised Land reveals Tubman as a complex woman–brilliant, shrewd, deeply religious, and passionate in her pursuit of freedom.

Since writing the first adult biography of Tubman, Professor Larson has consulted with numerous public history initiatives related to Harriet Tubman’s life and her role in the Underground Railroad. At this expanded book talk, she’ll discuss new scholarship about Tubman–including the recently discovered portrait of her as a young woman–and recent efforts to memorialize this brave hero in her native Maryland and in New York State.

Copies of Bound for the Promised Land will be available for purchase and signing at the event.


Portraying Canadian Slavery, with Art Historian Charmaine Nelson

Wednesday, April 18, 2018 – 7:30 p.m.

Art historian Charmaine Nelson expands the traditional slave-trade triangle to include Canada. Mining an array of sources—including maps, artwork, and the Canadian fugitive slave archive—her goal is to re-humanize people who were dehumanized. “Even in the stories of how they escaped, sometimes slave owners would inadvertently disclose how intelligent the escapees were, and how much forethought and planning went into escaping,” Nelson says.

Through an exploration of the various forms of human commodification–auctions, private, and public sales–Professor Nelson will offer evidence about the ethnic make-up of British Quebec’s enslaved population and the nature of their labors, drawing parallels and distinctions between Canada and other transatlantic sites.

Art historian Charmaine Nelson–a professor at McGill University in Montreal–is currently at Harvard as the William Lyon Mackenzie King Chair in Canadian Studies.


“In Honor of the Enslaved Whose Labor Created Wealth That Made Possible the Founding of Harvard Law School”

Harvard Law School was founded in 1817 through a bequest from Isaac Royall Jr., whose family’s significant wealth was largely derived from the labor of enslaved people on Antiguan sugar plantations. We were honored to be present at the unveiling of this memorial “In honor of the enslaved whose labor created wealth that made possible the founding of Harvard Law School.”

Royall Professor of Law Janet Halley “read aloud the known names of enslaved men, women, and children of the Royall household from records that have survived. She noted that many of the names—just first names, with no last names—were probably not the original names that had been given to these individuals at birth.

“‘These names then are the tattered ruined remains, the accidents of recording, and the encrustation of a system that sought to convert human beings into property,’ Halley said. ‘But they’re our tattered ruined remains, and I thought I would devote my remarks to reading them out.'”

You can read more about the unveiling in articles from Boston MagazineHarvard Law Today, the Harvard Gazette, and Harvard Magazine.