Massachusetts Historical Society Conferences

Call for Papers for the 2020 Conrad E. Wright Research Conference

“Shall Not Be Denied”: The 15th and 19th Amendments at the Sesquicentennial and Centennial of their Ratifications, October 16-17, 2020


Deadline: November 1, 2019

The year 2020 marks the anniversaries of two critical amendments to the United States Constitution. Spaced fifty years apart, the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments, ratified in 1870 and 1920, respectively, prohibited the use of race or sex to deny American citizens the franchise. However, the amendments did not prevent states from adopting other methods of discrimination. Viewed as the product of two different movements—abolitionism and the Civil War on the one hand and the Progressive campaigns and the First World War on the other—these two periods and amendments are not often considered together. This conference revisits the long journey to secure voting rights for African Americans and women in United States history. It considers the legal precedents and hurdles that each amendment faced, the meaning and uneven outcomes of each, the social context that allowed for ultimate ratification, the role of key individuals and groups in these respective contexts, and how each amendment has been remembered over time.

This conference invites scholars from various disciplines to discuss common themes and challenges surrounding the amendments and papers can cover any topic relating to them. We welcome submissions from all historical, political science, and legal fields.

A keynote panel and reception will take place on Friday, 16 October. The panel features Profs. Alison M. Parker (University of Delaware) and Lisa Tetrault (Carnegie Mellon University) and will be moderated by Prof. Alex Keyssar (Harvard). The full conference day will take place on Saturday, 17 October.

Interested parties are encouraged to submit either individual paper presentations or full panels (with or without commenters) by November 1, 2019. Application materials must include a paper description and CV for individual submissions. Full panel proposals must include paper descriptions and individual CVs along with a description of the panel itself. Paper proposals should not exceed one page and accompanying CVs should not exceed ten pages in length. Please submit applications materials and/or questions to research@masshist.org.

Past Conferences

For more than two decades, the Massachusetts Historical Society has been offering scholarly conferences on a wide variety of topics. These have ranged from the libraries of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, to Transcendentalism, Boston's business community before the Civil War, the city's environmental history, and recent immigration to the U.S.

Presenters come from throughout the U.S. and are leading scholars in their respective fields. Often, conferences culminate in a publication of essays that are drawn from the program and represent a lasting contribution to historical scholarship. Past conferences include:

"'So Sudden an Alteration': The Causes, Course, and Consequences of the American Revolution" (2015)

Massachusetts and the Civil War: The Commonwealth and National Disunion

What's New about the New Immigration to the U.S.? Traditions and Transformations since 1965 (2011)

Margaret Fuller and Her Circles (2010)

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson: Libraries, Leadership, and Legacy (2009)

I-CHORA 3: International Conference on the History of Records and Archives (2007)

Power and Protest: The Civil Rights Movement in Boston, 1960-1968 (2006)

Remaking Boston: The City and Environmental Change Over the Centuries (2006)

Women, War, Work: American Women and the U.S. Military in the Twentieth Century (2004)

"Spires of Form": The Emerson Bicentennial Conference (2003)

For information about earlier conference programs, please contact Katy Morris, Research Coordinator, at 617-646-0577 or kmorris@masshist.org.

Conference Publications

From its first conference volume on American Unitarianism, issued in 1989, to Margaret Fuller and Her Circles, forthcoming from the University Press of New England, the MHS has made the scholarship developed through its conferences widely and permanently available to the field.

The MHS publication series Studies in American History and Culture comprises many of these volumes. More recently, MHS conference volumes published by other presses have given our conference scholarship an even wider reach. Peruse these essay collections.