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Feinberg Family Lecture Series

The Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series is an endowed series offered every other academic year by the Department of History at UMass Amherst. Each series focuses on a contemporary public policy or social issue in historical perspective and features a wide variety of events, from lectures and exhibitions, to performances, panel discussions and films. 

The 2018-2019 series explores revolutionary social movements’ radical imaginations of the future. Titled Another World is Possible: Revolutionary Visions, Past and Present, the series takes its inspiration from visionary movements led by poor people and people of color that have confronted the immediate challenges impacting people's lives while simultaneously working to build radical alternatives. Drawing on the words of historian Robin D.G. Kelley, this series explores their “freedom dreams.” That is, it looks at “what people in particular movements dreamed of, what they thought they were fighting for,” and how they imagined and built new and radically different worlds.

A professional development series for K12 teachers and an undergraduate course will accompany the event series.

The most recent series explored the theme, The U.S. in the Age of Mass Incarceration. This series took a critical look at the ways that state violence, mass incarceration, and mass criminalization have transformed the U.S. economy, culture and society. Other prior series themes have included immigration, truth and reconciliation, politics and protest, civil rights, and more.


The series has “lecture” in the title. Is it just academic lectures? No. Each series consists of a wide variety of events, including lectures, panels, cultural events, workshops, undergraduate courses, and more.

How many events and initiatives will there be? This varies from year to year. In 2018-2019, there will be one keynote and a number of smaller events over the course of the year. The biennial James Baldwin Lecture is also offered in conjunction with the series.

Where are the events held? On the campus of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and in venues in surrounding communities.

Who is the audience for these events? All events are free and open to the public and are publicized widely across the Five Colleges and western Massachusetts more broadly. To encourage deeper engagement with the series on our campus, we offer one or more undergraduate courses on the series theme, which includes attendance at the series events. We also offer an associated series for K12 educators, who attend series event as a part of a year-long professional workshop series. The series and individual events are planned in partnership with local grassroots organizations. During the 2016-2017, several thousand people attended one or more events, with several hundred people consistently in attendance at each individual event.

How is this series funded? The Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series is made possible thanks to the generosity of UMass history department alumnus Kenneth R. Feinberg (B. A., 1967) and associates. Kenneth R. Feinberg grew up in Brockton, Massachusetts and received his B. A. in History from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1967. A renowned attorney and one of the nation’s leading experts in resolving legal disputes out of court, Feinberg served as special-settlement master in a number of major class-action suits involving victims of asbestos, Agent Orange, securities fraud, the Dalkon shield. Feinberg also served as the government-appointed administrator of the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster Victim Compensation Fund and the One Fund, the victim assistance fund established in the wake of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. Most prominently, Feinberg served as director of the Congressional fund to assist the families of those killed or injured in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. He oversaw the distribution of almost $7,000,000,000 and his book, What is Life Worth?: The Unprecedented Effort to Compensate the Victims of 9/11 (Perseus, 2005), grew out of that experience. Mr. Feinberg has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including an honorary doctorate from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2002.