Scholars share research on Vermont history in winter speaker series

Published: Jan. 23, 2022 at 10:58 AM EST
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BARRE, Vt. (WCAX) - This winter, you can learn about social issues relevant to Vermont’s history from scholars from around North America, as part of the Vermont Historical Society’s Winter Speaker Series.

Four historians -- Van Gosse, Rachel Hope Cleves, Sara Gregg and Jean O’Brien -- will be featured in the speaker series.

Amanda Gustin, the public program manager of the Vermont Historical Society, says once a month, a scholar will join them virtually to discuss research they’ve done on Vermont’s history regarding race, gender and sexuality.

“We really wanted to look for some really, really terrific speakers,” Gustin said. “Some really terrific historians and bring them to as many people as we can reach.”

The series kicked off in January with a lecture from Jean O’Brien, a history professor at the University of Minnesota. O’Brien has written several books about Indigenous people.

The second speaker is Van Gosse, a history professor at Franklin and Marshall College. Gosse is the author of “The First Reconstruction: Black Politics in America, From the Revolution to the Civil War.”

Gosse examines the political involvement of Black men between the 1700s and the 1800s.

“Most historians have assumed that so few Black men could vote that it wasn’t worth discussing and I go as far as I can to prove that that was not true,” said Gosse.

In his nearly 800-page book, Gosse invokes notable Black political figures from Vermont, including Reverend Lemuel Haynes and Alexander Twilight to support his claim.

“Lemuel Haynes -- he was known across the Atlantic as a theologian. He got involved in politics. He was an active federalist and that brought him into a lot of debate,” said Gosse. “And then there’s Alexander Twilight. He trained almost a generation of Vermont leaders at his school. And he was elected to the Legislature in 1836, really to defend the rights of his county.”

Gosse’s talk will be held on Feb. 16. Following that, Rachel Hope Cleves will speak about the history of same-sex marriage in early America on March 23. The final lecture will be held on April 27. Sara Gregg will talk about several books focusing on environmental change, agricultural history and land policy.

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