J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

“Declaring Independence” Deemed Excellent

I’ve periodically mentioned the “Declaring Independence—Then & Now” programs organized by Freedom’s Way National Historic Area, the American Antiquarian Society, and local hosting organizations.

This spring, the American Association for State and Local History announced that it would give Freedom’s Way an Award of Excellence for “Declaring Independence.” The announcement called the program
a thought-provoking public performance piece incorporating historical research, conducted by citizen-historians, into a narrated reading of the Declaration of Independence.

Performed in historic venues throughout the 45 communities of the Freedom's Way National Heritage Area, each performance is followed by community conversation with a goal to deepen civic engagement with the enduring meanings of that declaration and its relevance for today.
The A.A.S.L.H. has conferred its Leadership in History Awards since 1945, recognizing significant achievements in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history. At a banquet in Philadelphia on 30 August, the organization will confer this year’s awards on fifty notable people, projects, exhibits, and publications. So congratulations to everyone involved in developing and performing the “Declaring Independence” program!

Now I was particularly pleased to hear about this award because I was on a small committee of historians who attended several programs and analyzed them for the association. I got to see how different communities came together to explore the Declaration, adding local stories and reflecting on ongoing issues. There are no more presentations of “Declaring Independence” scheduled for this summer, but I recommend that local historical organizations and libraries look into hosting the program for their communities.

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