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Dr. Paula C. Austin joins the Historic New England staff as archival researcher to recover the full and inclusive stories of Pierce House, Historic New England’s education center in Dorchester, Mass. Austin is a U.S. historian with a focus on African American history; the history of race and racism, visual culture, urban, education, and women’s history; the history of social science; and the history of childhood. She recently published a book titled The Coming of Age in Jim Crow DC: Navigating the Politics of Everyday Life.
Her work launches Teaching the Full Dorchester Story, an education initiative that is refocusing youth education programs at the 1683 Pierce House to engage students through the stories of enslaved, free Black, and other marginalized people connected to the site during the colonial period and Revolutionary era.
Austin is spending the first half of 2023 delving into primary source material available through Historic New England’s collections and archives, material at the Dorchester Historical Society, city records, and other Boston-area resources, as well as from members of the community who may have lived alongside or had contact with the Pierce family. These findings will support the design and delivery of a new and expanded course of study at the museum for grades K-12.
Through high-quality, affordable programs that are grounded in state curriculum standards, Historic New England offers immersive learning experiences at Pierce House to children across Boston neighborhoods. The historic space provides students an opportunity to engage with history through a hyperlocal lens. Pierce House educators serve 6,000 students annually through in-classroom, virtual, and on-site programs, and more than 2,000 schoolchildren visit Pierce House each year.
Austin’s work is made possible by a grant from Mass Humanities, which provided funding through the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC).
Media Contact: Susanna Crampton, [email protected]