RIT Scholar Promotes Rochester’s Reform Trail

Richard Newman wins grant to conduct workshops for K-12 teachers

A. Sue Weisler

Richard Newman

Richard Newman, professor of history at Rochester Institute of Technology, has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to conduct two weeklong summer seminars for K-12 teachers about Rochester’s rich tradition in the reform movements of the 19th century. Joe Torre, assistant professor of history at the State University of New York at Brockport, will be a co-director of the workshop series.

The summer seminar, “Abolitionism, Women’s Rights and Religion on the Rochester Reform Trail,” is part of the endowment’s Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops and will take place next July. Newman and Torre will host 80 educators from around the country who will meet daily in sites throughout downtown Rochester including the Strong National Museum of Play and the Rochester Historical Society.

The workshops will feature guest lectures by prominent area scholars and discussions about the way that Rochester reformers influenced American history. The programs will focus on the lives and legacies of Rochester residents Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass and evangelical minister Charles Grandison Finney. The seminars will also include guided tours of historic sites and examination of archive collections from across the region including the Susan B. Anthony House and the Frederick Douglass Papers at the University of Rochester.

“The social reform movements of the nineteenth century influenced nearly every aspect of American culture, from the struggle against slavery to the civil rights and women’s rights movements,” Newman says. “These seminars will provide history teachers from around the country with a better understanding of Rochester’s vital role in American reform history and, hopefully, teachers attending the workshop can bring insights from Rochester’s reform trail back to their classrooms.”

Part of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ “We the People” program, the Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops provide the opportunity for K-12 educators to engage in intensive study and discussion of important topics in American history and culture. Newman has previously conducted three summer seminars on the Abolitionist Movement at The Library Company in Philadelphia, one of the nation’s oldest cultural institutions.

“We need to make sure that today’s students understand that modern conceptions of diversity and equality came out of past reform struggles,” Newman notes. “Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass and Charles Grandison Finney all dedicated their lives to improving American society. By studying their stories now, teachers might inspire a new generation of reformers to solve contemporary social problems.”


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