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The Feinberg Series, since 2004

The Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series is a biennial event series hosted by the Department of History at UMass Amherst. Each series focuses on a pressing contemporary issue in historical perspective. The Feinberg Series is made possible thanks to the generosity of UMass History Department alumnus Kenneth R. Feinberg (1967) and associates.

Prior Series Themes

2016-2017: The U.S. in the Age of Mass Incarceration
2014-2015: Migration Matters: Rethinking Immigration in the Modern Americas
2012: Truth and Reconciliation, History and Justice
2010-2011: Sport in Society and History
2008: Measuring the Value of Human Life
2006: Politics and Protest: The 1960s and Now
2004: Race, Law, and Civil Rights: Fifty Years of Brown vs Board of Education


2014-2015: Migration Matters: Rethinking Immigration in the Modern Americas

A brief glance at recent headlines shows that migration is a hotly debated topic, often polarizing communities and inflaming passions on all sides of the political spectrum. The global movement of people in the Americas and elsewhere has a long and complex history. The 2014-2015 Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series brought together scholars, activists and policymakers to help understand the motivations, circumstances and conditions that define migrant and immigrant experiences. By moving beyond simple generalizations of “crisis” or a “broken system,” the series analyzed questions surrounding intervention, reform, belonging and the contested meanings of this “nation of immigrants.” Speakers included Mae Ngai (Lung Family Professor of Asian American Studies and Professor of History, Columbia University), Donna Gabaccia (Professor of History, University of Toronto), and María Cristina García (Howard A. Newman Professor of American Studies, Cornell University). Local K12 teachers participated in the series as part of the Department's annual History Institute. To learn more, take a look at the press release and poster. Videos of select lectures are available on YouTube.


2012: Truth and Reconciliation, History and Justice

The 2012 Feinberg Series, “Truth and Reconciliation, History and Justice,” dealt with attempts to achieve truth and reconciliation in the wake of violent and traumatic historical events. The keynote speaker was James Anaya, UN special rapporteur on indigenous peoples, who on October 4, 2012 presented “Reconciliation or ‘Just Get Over It’: How Should Societies Answer Indigenous Peoples Today” His lecture followed the daylong symposium “Indigenous Peoples, Truth, and Reconciliation,” featuring speakers from Australia, Canada, and across the U.S. Another October panel, “Truth and Reconciliation in Comparative Perspective,” featured speakers from Argentina and Northern Ireland along with a Boston College professor who spoke on South Africa. We were also delighted to welcome Paula Green of Amherst’s Karuna Center for Peacebuilding to describe her work promoting community healing in Rwanda. Our own Professor John Higginson facilitated a discussion of Facing the Truth, a film on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We also offered a cluster of events on Greensboro, N.C., beginning with a screening of the film Greensboro: Closer to the Truth that included an appearance by its director, Adam Zucker, and concluding with a visit by Rev. Nelson N. Johnson and Mrs. Joyce H. Johnson of Greensboro’s Beloved Community Center. The series concluded with two panels discussions. “Is the U.S. Ready for Truth and Reconciliation” addressed slavery, Jim Crow, political prisoners, and Guantanamo. In the final panel, “History and Truth, Reconciliation, and Justice," noted historians presented their concluding reflections.


2010-2011: Sport in Society and History

During the 2010-11 academic year, the Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series featured the theme “Sport in Society and History.” The series began in September with Elliott Gorn’s aptly titled “Why Should We Care About Sports History” In October the department partnered with Fine Arts to present a conversation with famed musician Hugh Masekela and his son, Salema. That was followed by a screening of their film Umlando—Through My Father’s Eye, which recounts the trip the two men made throughout South Africa in anticipation of the 2010 World Cup. Carlo Rotella, an academic writer who regularly contributes to publications such as the Boston Globe and The New York Times Magazine, also visited. During the spring semester other speakers, including Adrian Burgos Jr., Andrew Morris, and Robert Wiener ’74MA, lectured in undergraduate courses. Wiener gave a public lecture, “Drugs in Sport: A Sordid History, Now Being Corrected,” and launched a media blitz for the series. The series also featured panel discussions on diverse themes including sport in Latin America and the history of soccer in Massachusetts. The department presented several sports-related movies and followed them with discussions led by History Department faculty including Chris Appy, Jennifer Fronc, and Joyce Berkman. The films included Not Just a Game: Power, Politics, and American Sports, screened with special guest Dave Zirin. In the spring semester the department joined with the Association of Diversity in Sport, a student organization, to present the roundtable discussion “Who is LeBron” In April the series concluded with a talk by Susan Chan, “Testing and Contesting: What Caster Semenya Means to Women’s Sports.”