President, Board of Directors, Abyssinian Meeting House

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Pamela Cummings is President of the Board of Directors and Director of Education Programs for The Abyssinian Meeting House. She is also the writer of two books and the founder of A Walk Back in Time, a theatrical walk retracing the footsteps of enslaved people in Portland, Maine. She is proud mother of Lindsey Alston DAndrea and Douglas Alston. 

Photo: PORTLAND, ME - MARCH 16: Pam Cummings, the head of the Committee to Restore the Abyssinian, in the upstairs of the meeting house which is currently being restored. The historical place of worship built by African Americans in the 19th century fell into disarray and a committee to restore the building has been working toward the goal for 20 years. (Staff photo by Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer)

Talks

The Underground Railroad: Retracing the Tracks

An illustrious walk back in time to discuss the history of the Underground Railroad and its relevance and significance to Maine’s total and accurate history. Pamela explores the places that are hidden all around us in plain sight, each with its own story begging to be told and lessons waiting to be shared.


What’s in Your Hand? 

Use readily available resources to create your underground railroad–your escape from slavery to freedom. 

Visiting Scholar, Brown University, Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice

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Meadow Dibble is a Visiting Scholar at Brown University’s Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice. Originally from Cape Cod, she lived for six years on Senegal’s Cape Verde peninsula, where she co-founded and published a cultural magazine. Meadow received her PhD from Brown University’s Department of French Studies and taught at Colby College from 2005–08.

Today, she is editor of The International Educator newspaper. In 2018, following a brutal awakening to the reality of her hometown’s deep investment in the business of slavery, she launched Atlantic Black Box, a public history initiative devoted to researching and reckoning with New England’s role in the slave trade.

Talks

The Diseased Ship: A Cautionary Tale About Our Nation’s Twin Plagues That Went Untold for Two Centuries 

This dramatic story features a prominent Yankee sea captain, a tragedy on the high seas, a viral outbreak, a major political cover up, and a conspiracy of silence that has lasted two centuries surrounding New England’s involvement in the slave trade.

Following these historical threads into the present day allows us to consider the ways in which our region’s repressed history of complicity with the business of slavery relates to our current national conversations about race, privilege, identity, and access to the “American dream.”


Hiding in Plain Sight: New England Complicity in the Global Slave Economy

New England has long repressed the memory of its involvement in the slave trade and the Atlantic World slave economy, just as it has concealed or failed to center the stories of the region’s free and enslaved Black and Indigenous populations.

How could we have gotten the story so wrong for so long? This interactive presentation will contrast the cherished narrative of Northern exceptionalism with recent scholarship that reveals a long history of exploitation with which our communities have barely begun to reckon.

Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education, University of Southern Maine

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Libby Bischof explores American society through the lens of history—and the lens of a camera. A nineteenth-century American cultural historian, Professor Bischof specializes in the history of photography, particularly in Maine. Her other research interests include Maine history, modernism, how friendship informs cultural production, and nineteenth-century New England women writers. 

Bischof co-curated of the exhibition Maine Moderns: Art in Sequinland, 1900-1940 at the Portland Museum of Art with Senior Curator Susan Danly. The show won the critic’s choice award for best Historic Show in the 2011 New England Art Awards.

Talks

Maine at 200: A Visual History


History of Photography in Maine 


Visual History of Maine Through Postcards


The World War I Centennial and WWI Monuments and Memorials in Maine 

Professor of History, University of Maine

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Liam Riordan is a faculty member in the Department of History at the University of Maine in Orono. He is a specialist on the American Revolution, and has published about religious, racial and ethnic diversity in the Philadelphia region from 1770 to 1830, and the history of Loyalists. Riordan currently serves on Bangor’s Historic Preservation Commission.

He is the past the Director of the University of Maine Humanities Center, and a former board member of the Maine Humanities Council. He helps organize Maine National History Day, a statewide history contest for middle and high school students. Liam’s wife is the principal of Reeds Brook Middle School in Hamden and they have two children.

Talks

What Did We Learn from the Maine State Bicentennial? Reflections on Historical Commemoration 


Picturing Maine’s Indigenous Context: Colonialism and the Penobscot


What are the Humanities, and Why are They Essential for our Future? 


The Five Most Important Things to Know about the American Revolution 


The American Revolution & the Origins of Multiculturalism in the U.S. 


Does the American Revolution Look Different from the Penobscot River?

Scholar of Cultural Narratives

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Gaudet is a member of the Humanities faculty and associate director of the University Honors Program at the University of New Hampshire, where she teaches courses on topics like addiction, criminality, and plagues.

She is the editor of What Is a Criminal?, a collection of essays by people with diverse knowledge of the U.S. justice system, which is forthcoming in 2022. She is also working on a scholarly collection about literature and addiction. She lives in Saco with her spouse and two children. 

Talks

Drug Tales: Old and New Stories about People Who Use Drugs 

The stories we know influence how we see the world. This interactive talk will discuss some familiar narratives about drug use, and explore how those stories can fail the people most affected by them. Participants will be invited to shape new narratives and imagine how to disrupt the conventions of drug tales. 


Stories of Epidemics

Are we living through a Biblical plague? Or are we feeling the wrath of the gods on our society, like Thebes in the time of Oedipus? This talk considers what stories, histories, and legends of epidemics have to tell us about how to understand our own time. 

Historian, scholar, independent museum professional

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Kate McBrien currently serves as Maine State Archivist, overseeing Maine State Government’s archives and records management programs. As curator of the award-winning exhibition “Malaga Island, Fragmented Lives,” McBrien is also an historian for the Malaga Island community. She previously held positions as Chief Curator and Director of Public Engagement at the Maine Historical Society and as the Curator of Historic Collections for the Maine State Museum. 

Talks

Malaga Island

This presentation and discussion explores the true history of the community who lived on Malaga Island, off the coast of Phippsburg, Maine, in the late 1800s. The program examines the individuals who were part of this community and the state’s actions to evict them from their homes through the complex history of racism and eugenics in Maine. 

Associate Professor of Africana Studies

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Judith Casselberry is Associate Professor of Africana Studies at Bowdoin College. Her teaching and research focuses on Black American religious and cultural studies, social movements, and Black intellectual thought with particular attention to gender and liberation. 

She is author of The Labor of Faith: Gender and Power in Black Apostolic Pentecostalism (Duke University Press, 2017) and co-editor of Spirit on the Move: Black Women and Pentecostalism in Africa and the Diaspora (Religious Cultures of African and African Diaspora People series with Duke University Press, 2019.

Talks

Afrofuturism in 19th century Black Spirituals 

What can 19th century Black spirituals teach us about Afrofuturism? What if we fully embraced the insistence of the spirituals—insisting on humanity, insisting on a divine ethical and moral vision?

Nineteenth century Black spirituals laid the foundations for Afrofuturism as Black people brought God and the battles and heroes of the Old Testament into their history while projecting liberation in the now and future. Through the spirituals Black people insisted on the value of their ways of knowing and ways of expressing life, death, sorrow, and joy.


Black Women’s Freedom Practices: 17th to 21st Century

This talk centers four Black women of consequence who affected the American political landscape between the 17th and 21th centuries—Elizabeth Key, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Stacy Abrams.

Their experiences highlight how power dynamics of race, gender, sexuality, status, and religion converge in different moments and are shaped by social, political, and historical contexts. At the same time, each woman shows how Black women’s activism has had a profound impact on America’s self-understanding—in social, legal, and political realms. 


Intentional Community Building: Blackness in Lesbian Musical Culture 

Based on reflections from a cultural worker/performer at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, this talk address the commitment to building an intentional community rooted in a lesbian feminist musical and artistic ethos.

This talk provides a glimpse into spaces where lesbians of color negotiate questions about autonomy, coalition work, and intentional community building which inform our notions of civil society, citizenship, and social justice. This talk explores these themes by looking specifically at the evolution of the festival’s theme song, “Amazon”

Storyteller and oral historian

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Before returning to her family home in western Maine as a freelance storyteller and oral historian, Jo Radner spent 31 years as a professor at American University in Washington, DC. There she taught literature, folklore, women’s studies, American studies, Celtic studies, and storytelling.

She is currently writing a book titled “Wit and Wisdom in the New England Village Lyceum,” about a 19th-century village tradition of creating and performing handwritten literary newspapers. Radner received her PhD from Harvard University and is a past president of the American Folklore Society and the National Storytelling Network.

Talks

Burnt into Memory: How Brownfield Faced the Fire

Drawing on interviews with townspeople, letters, photographs, and newspaper reports, Jo Radner tells the history of the furious 1947 wildfire that in a few hours destroyed almost all of the little town of Brownfield in western Maine.

Neighbors fought and fled the fire, saving what they could and supporting one another, then returned to the devastated town to rebuild their community. In the Brownfield citizens’ own words Radner tells an epic story of terror, courage, generosity, and hope. 


Family Stories: How and Why to Remember and Tell Them

Telling personal and family stories is fun – and much more. Storytelling connects strangers, strengthens links between generations, and gives children the self-knowledge to carry them through hard times. Knowledge of family history has even been linked to better teen behavior and mental health.

In this active and interactive program, storyteller Jo Radner shares foolproof ways to mine memories and interview relatives for meaningful stories. Participants will practice finding, developing, and telling their own tales.


Wit and Wisdom: Homegrown Humor in 19th Century New England 

Whatever did New Englanders do on long winter evenings before cable, satellite and the internet? In the decades before and after the Civil War, our rural ancestors used to create neighborhood events to improve their minds. Community members would compose and read aloud homegrown, handwritten literary “newspapers” full of keen verbal wit.

Sometimes serious, sometimes sentimental but mostly very funny, these “newspapers” were common in small villages across Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont and revealed the hopes, fears, humor, and surprisingly daring behavior of our forebears. Jo Radner shares discoveries about hundreds of these “newspapers” and when possible, provides examples from villages in your region. 

Professor of Political Science, University of Maine at Farmington

Jim Melcher teaches a wide range of courses on American politics, government, and political thought at University of Maine at Farmington. He has a strong interest in the interactions between American politics, geography and history.

Melcher has become known throughout the University of Maine system for his work on the Maine Public Policy Scholars program, and has become a frequent “voice of the University” in his numerous interviews as a political expert with media both within and outside Maine.

Talks

The Warren Court and the 14th Amendment

The Warren Court did much to expand the power of the 14th Amendment and of the national government in the areas of civil rights, voting/districting, and rights of those accused of or convicted of crimes. The impact from this court era is still with us today. 


The Electoral College and Maine

How does the Electoral College work, and why does Maine have a plan for choosing its electors that only one other state–Nebraska–follows? Nothing confuses students of American Government more than the Electoral College, and no section of the Constitution has seen more proposed amendments for change than it.

Poet, Writer, Archivist

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Jefferson Navicky is the archivist for the Maine Women Writers Collection. He is the author of Antique Densities: Modern Parables & Other Experiments in Short Prose, as well as the story collection, The Paper Coast, and the poetic novel, The Book of Transparencies. He lives in Freeport with his wife, dog, cats, and chickens. 

Talks

The Offshore Islands Belong to Themselves: Ruth Moore & Her Poetry

Ruth Moore was one of Maine’s most beloved 20th century writers. Jefferson’s presentation includes highlights from the Ruth Moore collection at the Maine Women Writers Collection. This talk touches on some of her most well-known books as well as her often-neglected poetry. Jefferson will share a variety of Moore’s poems and invite audience participation. 


Elizabeth Coatsworth & Kate Barnes: Processing the Literary Archives of Mother & Daughter

Jefferson Navicky had the rare good fortune of processing the extensive archival papers of Elizabeth Coatsworth, one of the most accomplished children’s book authors and poets of the mid 20th century, as well as the papers of her daughter, Kate Barnes, Maine’s first Poet Laureate.

Together, their papers present an intimate glimpse into the makings of a matriarchal line of Maine writers. Jefferson will speak about his experience processing these collections, as well as present illustrative work from each writer, and provide historical and biographical context. 


A Day in the Life of Maine Women: Diaries of Everyday Life

The Maine Women Writers Collection has numerous diaries spanning the 19th and 20th century kept by Maine women across the state whose lives were remarkable in their unremarkableness. In the quotidian passing of their days – from weather to chores to historic moments – the accumulation gives shape and significance to their lives.

By sampling and discussing a selection of these diaries across time, we will all connect with the common struggles and small triumphs of what it’s like to be human and to live day by day.