Academic journal article Historical Journal of Massachusetts

Mass Moments: Teaching Resources from Mass Humanities

Academic journal article Historical Journal of Massachusetts

Mass Moments: Teaching Resources from Mass Humanities

Article excerpt

Mass Moments is an incredible resource for teachers, students, and the general public. A project of MassHumanities (, Mass Moments is an on-line database and almanac of Massachusetts History. Every day, internet users as well as radio and podcast listeners find a different story about events and people culled from three centuries of Massachusetts history. In addition to streaming audio and the text of the minute-long spot, every story on the website has a background essay, primary source document, image, and links to both virtual and "real" resources. An interactive timeline and map provides historical and geographic context, and a message board offers the opportunity to post comments or questions. One can sign up to receive Mass Moments daily via email or as a podcast. All 365 "Moments" are available and searchable by key word, subject, time period, and region.

Since the Mass Moments website was launched on January 1, 2005, teachers have been using it to enhance their curriculum. There are many different classroom applications for the audio spots/scripts as well as for the background essays, timeline, map, links, and other resources available on the website. Developed by the Mass Moments editorial staff in consultation with K- 12 educators, "Teachers Features" makes it even easier for teachers to use this electronic collection of 365 stories from Massachusetts history.

Teachers' Features consists of three units for high school; two for the upper elementary and middle school levels; and ideas for using Mass Moments in third-grade classrooms, where Massachusetts history appears in the state frameworks. See


First Education Law

In 1642, Massachusetts Bay Colony passed the first law in the New World requiring that children be taught to read and write. The English Puritans who founded Massachusetts believed that the well-being of individuals, along with the success of the colony, depended on a people literate enough to read both the Bible and the laws of the land. Concerned that parents were ignoring the law, in 1 647 Massachusetts passed another one requiring that all towns establish and maintain public schools. It would be many years before these schools were open to all children. Only in the mid-nineteenth century was universal free public schooling guaranteed - in time, made compulsory - for Massachusetts children.

Benjamin Franklin Introduces "Silence Dogood"

In 1722, the Boston paper The Courant first published a letter from a widow with a keen wit and a gift for satire. Every few weeks, another letter from "Silence Dogood" appeared. The city was captivated by the lady's willingness to poke fun at institutions as illustrious as Harvard. After six months, "Silence Dogood" fell silent. Even James Franklin, The Courant 's publisher, did not know who she was or what had become of her. When her identity was revealed, Boston was amused but James Franklin was not. "Silence Dogood" was his 1 6-year-old brother, Benjamin, an apprentice in his print shop. The brothers parted ways, and Benjamin Franklin left his native city for Philadelphia, which now claims him as its own.

Boston Anti-Slavery Minister Tried for Starting Riot

In 1855, the case against Boston minister Theodore Parker came to trial. Charged with inciting an abolitionist riot, he defended himself by describing the horrors of slavery. He told the dramatic story of William and Ellen Craft, fugitive slaves from Georgia. The light-skinned Ellen had posed as a white man, and William pretended to be her slave, as they journeyed one thousand miles to freedom. In Boston, they received a warm welcome from the anti-slavery community. When their masters sent agents to reclaim them, abolitionists harassed the men until they gave up and left town. But Boston was no longer safe. …

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