Today the PLACE fellows met to conclude our second week of programming. This technological adventure has worked out very well for the most part, we have had some technical difficulties, but we have been able to work around them and have a successful program. We met some new guests in our program today: Shawn Quigley and Elizabeth Colby, who are from the National Parks of Boston. In their position with the NPS, they get to design and lead programs about our history that take into account our modern worldview and make these historical sights very interesting from a 2020 perspective.

      Shawn and Elizabeth led our activities today. After an icebreaker where we talked about Netflix shows, we broke off into groups for a primary-resources lab, which was a really lovely experience where we got to see newspaper articles and illustrations from the time of the Anthony Burns trial in Boston. The trial of Anthony Burns was an event that occurred in Boston in the 1850s during the lead up to the Civil War. A man named Anthony Burns, who was an escaped slave living in Boston, was captured by Southern slave-catchers and arrested. Burns was held in a Boston jail to await transport back to slavery in the South. Massachusetts was a free state, but the Federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 allowed escaped slaves to be captured in any state.  Abolitionist Bostonians did not approve of this and a group stormed the courthouse to try to free Anthony Burns, killing a federal agent in the process. As a result of this, martial law was declared, and federal troops were deployed to Boston to help in the transport of Burns. Boston was turned into a military city.

       Shawn posed an essential question to us before we started this program. The question was to “Think about a time in your life when a single event caused you to reconsider an established opinion.” As we explored primary resources that show what a huge event this was in Boston, it was clear that this was that time for Bostonians of the 1850s. The issue of slavery, which had been distant for many was brought to people’s front doors. The people of Boston had to decide what they believed in and what was just. Looking through the primary resources gave us an opportunity to see how this event polarized the community and changed peoples lives forever.

        The crisis we are in right now is a public health crisis and shows no signs of a civil war in the future, but it still looms large in most people’s minds. As we think about the Anthony Burns trial, where Bostonians came together and decided slavery was unjust, it is a reminder that we all must come together now, stay safe, and lookout for one another and our community at large. Maybe this will be that time where we change our opinions. Just like the events in the 1850s made Boston stronger, we can use this crisis to make our community stronger.

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