April 15, 2009

AMHERST, Mass.—Hilary Moss, assistant professor of black studies and history at Amherst College, will deliver the annual Max and Etta Lazerowitz Lecture on Thursday, April 30, at 4:30 p.m. in Amherst College’s Alumni House. The talk, titled “Race, Space and Educational Opportunity in Antebellum Boston,” will be followed by a reception; both events are free and open to the public.

Based on her forthcoming book Schooling Citizens: The Struggle for African American Education in Antebellum America, Moss’ lecture will explore the origins of formal school segregation, particularly in relationship to property, in Boston prior to the Civil War. The first city in the nation to craft a common school system open to both boys and girls, Boston allocated more of its resources to public education than any other American municipality in the antebellum period. African-Americans benefited significantly from this educational commitment in many respects, Moss has found; compared to their counterparts in other northern and southern communities, black Bostonians stood the greatest chance of receiving at least some schooling, since the city provided public education to its black residents free of charge—tax contributions notwithstanding. At the same time, if Bostonians were the first to create common schools, they were also the first to segregate them. Moss’ talk will trace this history and illustrate how white Bostonians’ enthusiasm for racially segregated spaces clashed with and ultimately triumphed over their commitment to educational opportunity.

At Amherst since 2004, Moss offers courses about the African-American experience from the slave trade to the present by drawing on social, cultural, intellectual and political history. While her research concentrates on the early 19th century, she teaches about an array of contemporary educational issues, including magnet schools, school choice and residential segregation. She received her bachelor of arts degree from Northwestern University and her master of arts and doctoral degrees from Brandeis University.

The Lazerowitz Lectureship is awarded each year to support and encourage members of the Amherst College faculty in their scholarly work. The dean of the faculty, in conjunction with the Lecture Committee, selects a member of the faculty below the rank of full professor to receive the prize and then present a talk on his or her research. The lectureship was established in 1985 to honor the parents of the late Morris Lazerowitz, professor emeritus of philosophy at Smith College.