HFA - College of Humanities & Fine Arts view HFA submenu

History Institute

The History Institute is the UMass History Department’s signature offering for teachers. Since 1994, this annual institute has offered local educators a valuable opportunity to explore historical themes in depth, to make meaningful connections with historians at UMass and beyond, and to stay abreast of current scholarship in the field. Each year, the institute consists of a series of lectures and workshops with local scholars and teacher trainers.

Recent themes include "Im/migration in the Modern Americas," “The 1960s and Beyond in Historical Perspective: Social Justice and Equality in Local Context," "Contemporary Events in Historical Perspective," and "Teaching in the Age of Mass Incarceration." 

Prior institutes have been offered in conjunction with the Collaborative for Educational Services' Emerging America Program and supported by the Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series, a Teaching American History grant from the U.S. Department of Education, and the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Program at the Collaborative. 

2017-2018 History Institute

James Baldwin on Film, on the Page, and in the Classroom

November 2 and 30, 2017 | 5 p.m. | Holyoke Public Library, 250 Chestnut Street, Holyoke, MA

This two-part workshop on the life and work of James Baldwin is offered in collaboration with the Western Mass Writers Project and the James Baldwin Project. The first session will focus on why to teach Baldwin, the second on how. The first meeting will feature a screening and discussion of the film The Price of the Ticket, which includes numerous interviews with Baldwin. The second meeting will include discussion of a short piece of Baldwin’s writing and strategies for teaching it. If there is interest, this program may develop into an extended series or even a course. A light supper will be served. Free and open to all. Registration encouraged:

Baldwin in Our Time: A Community Conversation about Race, History, and Action

April 4 and 11, 2018 | 5pm-7pm | Greenfield Community College, C208 Community Room, One College Drive, Greenfield, MA

This two-part workshop on the life and work of James Baldwin is offered in collaboration with the Western Mass Writing Project and Greenfield Community College. Workshop activities include a lecture by Smith University Professor and Baldwin scholar Kevin Quashie; collectively viewing and discussing the film I Am Not Your Negro; and various additional activities to deepen our understanding of Baldwin's work and the critical issues it raises. We invite educators who want to teach more Baldwin, activists who are working in communities to fight against racism, and individuals who are committed to bringing Baldwin's ideas into contemporary discussions about race and racism. A light supper will be served. Free. 10 Professional development points (PDPs) for teachers may be available upon arrangement with the Western Mass Writing Project; additional assignments may be required. Additional information forthcoming soon on the Western Mass Writing Project website. 

Book Group: Moth and Wasp, Soil and Ocean

April 18 - May 2 | Online

Please join us for a National Consortium for Teaching about Asia (NCTA) online book group for K-6 teachers on Moth and Wasp, Soil and Ocean: Remembering Chinese Scientist Pu Zhelong's Work for Sustainable Farming by UMass Amherst History Professor Sigrid Schmalzer. This picture book is suitable for both lower and upper elementary school students. Participants will read the book, contribute to online discussions, and join a webinar with the author on Wednesday, May 2, 7-8pm EDT. Copies of the book will be provided to accepted teachers. Limit of 25 participants. Registration will close on Friday, April 6 or when the group is full. To register, go to The online book group is administered by the Five College Center for East Asian Studies (FCCEAS) in collaboration with the History Institute.

About the Book: Moth and Wasp, Soil and Ocean tells its story through the memories of a farm boy who, inspired by Pu Zhelong, became a scientist himself. The narrator is a composite of people Pu Zhelong influenced in his work. With further context from Melanie Chan’s historically precise watercolors, this story will immerse young readers in Chinese culture, the natural history of insects, and the use of biological controls in farming. Backmatter provides context and background for this lovely, sophisticated picture book about nature, science, and Communist China. “The first time I saw a scientist in my village was also the first time I saw a wasp hatch out of a moth’s egg,” writes the narrator of this picture book about Chinese scientist Pu Zhelong. “In that moment I could not have said which was the more unexpected?or the more miraculous.” In the early 1960s, while Rachel Carson was writing and defending Silent Spring in the U.S., Pu Zhelong was teaching peasants in Mao Zedong’s Communist China how to forgo pesticides and instead use parasitic wasps to control the moths that were decimating crops and contributing to China’s widespread famine. This story told through the memories of a farm boy (a composite of people inspired by Pu Zhelong) will immerse young readers in Chinese culture, the natural history of insects, and sustainable agriculture. Backmatter provides historical context for this lovely, sophisticated picture book.