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Revolutionary Spaces

**Revolutionary Spaces ** connects people to the history and continuing practice of democracy through the intertwined stories of two of the nation’s most iconic sites—Boston’s Old South Meeting House and Old State House. We foster a free and open exchange of ideas, explore history, create gathering places, and preserve and steward historic buildings.

https://www.bostonhistory.org

Upcoming Events

  • In Person
    Voting is one of the most powerful ways to influence the trajectory of the nation. But those with the greatest stake in that future—the youth of America—lack access to the ballot under the age of 18.
    Join Revolutionary Spaces to explore the pros and cons of extending voting rights to people under age 18, the current limit for federal elections.

    Does youth participation in our democratic processes at an earlier age promote the agency of youth and lay the foundation for life-long civic engagement? Do young people lack the maturity to make complex voting decisions? Will a case built around the maturity of young people to make voting decisions undermine the protections afforded to them as minors?

    We will explore these questions and more with a dynamic panel that includes a legal expert in the field of children’s rights, a leading electoral participation scholar, state legislators concerned with the issue of voting rights for young people, and a youth advocate who successfully passed a local measure extending voting rights to persons under age 18.

    Join us as we pave the way for the future, one empowered voice at a time!
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    Revolutionary Spaces
  • In Person
    Virtual
    Join Revolutionary Spaces Associate Director of Collections Lori Erickson Fidler and acclaimed podcaster and New York Times best-selling author Mike Duncan (Hero of Two Worlds: The Marquis de Lafayette in the Age of Revolution) as they explore an iconic artifact from the Revolutionary Spaces collection, a sword brought to America by Lafayette.

    The program will examine Lafayette’s lifelong quest to defend the principles of liberty and equality on both sides of the Atlantic, the deep interconnections between the American and French Revolutions, and the impact of his legacy on our world today. A wealthy French aristocrat, the Marquis de Lafayette played a decisive role in the American Revolution while fighting alongside George Washington, eventually becoming a globally revered statesman, fierce advocate for liberty, and a passionate abolitionist. The program will conclude with an audience Q&A.
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    Revolutionary Spaces

Past Events

  • To mark the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, Revolutionary Spaces is sponsoring a civic event to honor three Community Changemakers whose leadership in bringing people together in dialogue has built a shared sense of purpose to drive change. Through their efforts, these honorees organized and inspired people to take action to ensure their voices are heard and represented.

    This gathering provides an opportunity to reflect on a less-remembered part of the Boston Tea Party story that can inspire participation in our democracy today: the weeks of community meetings that took place at Old South Meeting House after the first of the tea ships arrived on November 28, 1773. Through these gatherings, the community achieved a shared sense of purpose that led to a world-changing action: that the drastic action of destroying the tea was necessary to ensure that the Crown and Parliament understood the colonists’ commitment to the principle of representation.

    The Legacy of the Tea Party: Honoring Community Changemakers will take place at Old South Meeting House on the evening of December 14, 2023, marking the 250th anniversary of the start of the final round of large-scale meetings at Old South Meeting House that culminated in the 5,000-person gathering on December 16, 1773 that preceded the destruction of the tea that night.

    With an inspiring and uplifting atmosphere, this event will honor leaders who exemplify the same commitment to community dialogue, civic action, and representation that were also prerequisites for the American Revolution and founding principles of our nation. Their efforts also remind us that the work of creating and sustaining a free society remains unfinished, and that our collective future can and will be shaped by the strength and depth of our civic engagement. Each Community Changemaker has, in their unique way, turned words into action and exemplified the same courage of their convictions and the spirit of change demonstrated by the patriots of 1773.

    Click here to livestream the event.
    Partner:
    Revolutionary Spaces
  • Join Revolutionary Spaces at the Old South Meeting House for a discussion with Dr. James Fichter of the University of Hong Kong to mark the publication of his new book Tea: Consumption, Politics, and Revolution, 1773–1776. Dr. Fichter is joined in conversation with Dr. Nathaniel Sheidley, President and CEO of Revolutionary Spaces.

    In his new book, Dr. Fichter reveals a new dimension of the Boston Tea Party by exploring a story largely overlooked for the last 250 years—The fate of two large shipments of East India Company tea that survived and were drunk in North America. The book challenges the prevailing wisdom around the tea protests and consumer boycotts while showing the economic reality behind political rhetoric: Colonists did not turn away from tea as they became revolutionary Americans. While history records the noisy protests and prohibitions of patriots, merchant ledgers reveal that tea and British goods continued to be widely sold and consumed.

    By bringing different locations and events into the story and reinterpreting old ones, Dr. Fichter shows how the continuing risk that these shipments would be sold shaped colonial politics in the years ahead. He also hints at the enduring potency of consumerism in revolutionary politics.

    This program is made possible by the generous support of The Lowell Institute.


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    Revolutionary Spaces
  • Join Revolutionary Spaces for the launch of Eli Merritt’s new eye-opening book, _Disunion Among Ourselves: The Perilous Politics of the American Revolution_. Merritt reveals the deep political divisions that almost tore the Union apart during the American Revolution, and how the founding generation succeeded in holding the young nation together by uniting for the sake of liberty and self-preservation. _Disunion Among Ourselve_s has inevitable resonances with our present era of political hyperpolarization and serves as a touchstone for contemporary politics, reminding us that the founders overcame far tougher times than our own through commitment to ethical constitutional democracy and compromise. “Eli Merritt deftly explores a revolutionary America rife with divisions and driven by a fear of civil wars on multiple fronts. Deeply researched, wide-ranging, and insightful, Disunion Among Ourselves persuades that our national Union began from, and still depends on, fending off the many demons of disunion.”—Alan Taylor, Thomas Jefferson Foundation Chair at the University of Virginia and author of American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804 “Disunion Among Ourselves tells an important story that has been missed or skipped over in nearly all histories of the Revolution. It has indeed, as promised, recovered ‘a whole area of the Revolution’ previously underappreciated, and for that is invalu­able.”—Richard Kreitner, writer and historian, author of Break It Up: Secession, Division, and the Secret History of America’s Imperfect Union “Disunion Among Ourselves is an elegantly written and deeply researched book that challenges long-accepted myths about the origins of the American Union. Merritt shows that the seeds of the Civil War lay in the American Revolution and that the founding fathers had good cause to fear disunion and internecine conflict. The chance to build a new republic might have been fumbled away without superior statecraft––and indeed it nearly was. This suspenseful account supplies a timely lesson for our own hyperpartisan times––that the values of moderation, compromise, and the rule of law are prerequisite to the survival of democracy.”—Ian W. Toll, author of Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy Doors open at 5:30pm and is free and open to the public thanks to the generous support of The Lowell Institute. Light snacks and refreshments will be provided.
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  • Why is it that historic figures such as Samuel Adams, James Otis, and John Hancock are remembered as heroes, yet Metacom—the Wampanoag leader whom the English called King Philip—is virtually unknown? The year 2025 will mark the 350th anniversary of the devastating and bloody conflict between New England colonists and Indigenous people that is most commonly known to history as King Philip’s War. However, very little is known about his campaign to end English mistreatment and his fight for independence and property rights for his people. Throughout the 1830s, Willam Apess, a Pequot minister and activist, continued fighting for Indian rights. Revolutionary Spaces is proud to celebrate the legacy of both Apess and Metacom at A Community Reading of William Apess’s Eulogy on King Philip (Metacom), where we commemorate the ideals for which they fought—ideals that were not so different from those that Americans fought for in 1775.

    This talk is produced in partnership with the Institute for New England Native American Studies (INENAS) at the University of Massachusetts Boston and the Northeastern Humanities Center.

    Moderating is J. Cedric Woods (Lumbee), Director of INENAS. Drew Lopenzina, Professor of Early American and Native American Literature at Old Dominion University, provides historical context for the eulogy and the 19th-century events that informed Apess’s writing. Guest speakers then read excerpts from the eulogy followed by a brief panel discussion to critically address the history of Native American conversion to Christianity, the significance of King Philip’s War, and the importance of Apess’s eulogy.
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  • Join Revolutionary Spaces, Ford Hall Forum, and GBH Forum Network on March 14 as we unearth a treasure from our expansive collection, the iconic Liberty Tree Flag, and explore the great American tradition of protest. Commemorating the 250th Anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, which ignited from the Meeting of the Body of the People at Old South Meeting House, we will examine how this artifact relates to protest and the fight for freedom in its time, connecting it to our broader understanding of American history. Revolutionary Spaces’ Collections Manager Lori Erickson will showcase the Liberty Tree Flag and discuss the artifact, which was used to mark the Liberty Tree as a site of memory that symbolized the power of protest. Almost every subsequent protest in Revolutionary Boston genuflected in some way to the Liberty Tree. Later, the flag was brought out at anti-slavery meetings and feminist meetings as a reminder of the power of protest to make change. We’ll then be joined by esteemed professor and award-winning author Robert David “KC” Johnson to explore the history of American protest movements, from colonial to present day. The program will conclude with an audience Q&A. This essential virtual program will provide context for future programs at Revolutionary Spaces and other institutions throughout the anniversary year of the Boston Tea Party, as we grapple with the notion of protest in our midst. ### Resources Two-part blog post about the Liberty Tree Flag from the old Bostonian Society Website, written by intern Kathryn Griffith, who spent a full sunner conducting research on this object under Nat Scheidley’s direction [Part 1 ](https://bostonhistory.squarespace.com/kingstreet/2014/08/not-that-samuel-adams-chasing.html) [Part 2 ](https://bostonhistory.squarespace.com/kingstreet/2014/08/not-that-samuel-adams-chasing_20.html) [Background on the Liberty Tree itself, from the Smithsonian Magazine](https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/story-behind-forgotten-symbol-american-revolution-liberty-tree-180959162/) [The Freedoms We Lost by Barbara Clark Smith](https://thenewpress.com/books/freedoms-we-lost)
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    Revolutionary Spaces
  • Join Revolutionary Spaces, GBH Forum Network, Boston's poet laureate Porsha Olayiwola, and experts in the cultural and historical landscape on January 19th to explore the enduring question, "What ideals should bind us together as a nation?" This past September, Revolutionary Spaces engaged Boston's poet laureate, Porsha Olayiwola, to write a poem inspired by the words of our community. Join this revolutionary group of thought leaders online as Porsha shares her work and we engage in a lively panel discussion about the ideology through which we find fraternity and national identity. This transformative, virtual program is supported through the generosity of the Lowell Foundation, the New England Women's Club Fund, and Mass Humanities.
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    Revolutionary Spaces
  • Revolutionary Spaces cover the event that became known as “The Boston Tea Party.” Kicking off the 250th anniversary year of this iconic moment in history, this virtual panel provides a nuanced basis for which to understand the The Boston Tea Party. Moderated by Revolutionary Spaces President & CEO Nat Sheidley, acclaimed historians explore how the events preceding the Boston Tea Party led to this historic occasion. We then move, moment by moment, through the meeting and the destruction of the tea, providing commentary and insight. We also discuss the aftermath of December 16, 1773 and its legacy. This program is made possible through the generous support of the Lowell Institute.
    Partner:
    Revolutionary Spaces
  • Revolutionary Spaces, GBH News, GBH Forum Network, and Suffolk University are coming together to present an exciting panel discussion on what it takes to motivate young people to vote in contemporary America. Moderated by GBH News correspondent Peter Kadzis, this special afternoon program will feature a subject matter policy expert, a voting rights advocate, a political campaign strategist, and a minority youth activist group representative. With audience participation, the panel will take on issues relating to political persuasion, mobilization, and the power of generational change. Among the enduring questions to be addressed are: how is my voice heard; who speaks for me; and what is my recourse if I am silenced or marginalized. The program will thus aim to explore the who, what, where, when, how, and why of voting among young people in America today.
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    Revolutionary Spaces
  • Poetry and visual art by Mashpee Wampanoag poet, artist, and author Robert Peters comes to life in an original, multi-media performance. This premiere performance features Peters’ poetry/art collection “Thirteen Moons,” which evolved through the artist’s personal journey to reclaim traditional culture and to live in a way consistent with his traditional beliefs. A choral reading of the “Thirteen Moons” poetry collection sets the stage for a conversation with Peters and other Indigenous artists. Topics considered include humans’ relationship with the natural world, the meaning of “home” from a Native perspective, and the contributions of Indigenous voices to justice and democracy building today. Image: Artist Image
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  • March 5, 2020 marks 250 years since the events that came to be known as the **Boston Massacre**, a confrontation where British soldiers shot and killed several residents on a Boston street as tensions between soldiers and colonists rose to a breaking point. To commemorate the day, Boston leaders tell us about the Boston Massacre victims, including Crispus Attucks, Samuel Gray, James Caldwell, Patrick Carr, and Samuel Maverick.
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