Portuguese American Journal

Community: Migration and Mill Work in Industrial New England – Conference

The Portuguese immigrant experience in Southeastern Massachusetts will be the topic of a four-day international, multi-site traveling, academic conference titled ‘Migration and Mill Work: Portuguese Communities in Industrial New England’ to be held on December 3-5, 2017. All events are free and open to the public.

The conference was convened by Cristiana Bastos and Miguel Moniz and organized by Miguel Moniz, as a part of the ERC Advanced Grant The Color of Labor: the racialized lives of migrants project (ICS, Universidade de Lisboa) in collaboration with multiple local partners in Lowell, New Bedford, Fall River and N. Dartmouth.

Collaborative efforts among the many institutions have developed a special program to illustrate and contextualize the lectures with museum exhibits, historical exhibits, gallery talks, historical tours and re-enactments. The program is spread across Portuguese migrant mill contexts in Lowell, New Bedford and Fall River, with site visits in each location and talks in museum galleries and archives helping to illustrate the presented research. (Conference Program of the event PDF format)

This multi-disciplinary conference provides an overview of migrant mill labor through extended discussions of the settlement and development of early Portuguese communities in New England. The conference will address the waves of migrant laborers in textile and manufacturing mills in Massachusetts and Rhode Island from the late nineteenth century onwards.

According to organizer Miguel Moniz, “It has been a fascinating experience to work with so many interesting historians and educators to develop these programs.”

The conference is the result of the cooperation of the US National Park Service in Lowell and Superintendent Celeste Bernardo and Park Ranger Dave Byers; the New Bedford Whaling Museum with Robert Rocha and Mark Procknick who have developed programs and Sonia Pacheco at Ferreira Mendes Archives and Robert Forrant, Kady Phelps, Molly Mahoney, (History Department) and Frank Sousa at the Saab Center for Portuguese Studies, UMass Lowell developing historical exhibits other programming and Victor Mendes at CPSC UMass Dartmouth providing guidance and assistance with program organization.

International scholars from the US, Portugal and Europe will examine the theme and period; with special conference program including site visits, guided tours and gallery talks; oral history panels with former mill workers and community residents; historical documents and artifact exhibits; and scholarly community historical keynote talks.

Key note speakers include beminent historians, and long time researchers of Portuguese mill workers in New England will be given including presentations by Prof. Daniel Georgianna (author of the Strike of 28), Prof. Philip Silvia (Fall River resident historian-laureate), Prof. Robert Forrant (distinguished University Professor of History, UMass Lowell) and Prof. Rose P. Rodrigues Fairfield University (who has collected extraordinary maps of Portuguese demographic material on New Bedford).


Chase Mill and Pilgrim Mill, Fall River, MA Credit: Lewis W. Hine

Presentations examine mill town communities and ethnic groups; class and culture in industrial New England; work and living conditions; racialization, categorization and identity; social histories of the mill communities; life-histories of the working classes; workers’ rights movements; trans-local approaches to migrant trajectories; mill technology and technologies of labor governance; studies of age, gender, labor class, etc. The Portuguese case study will be connected to broader themes in race, ethnicity and labor practices, and will contextualize the political and economic forces confronted by migrant mill wage workers in the period.

The conference also serves as a working meeting for researchers organizing an edited volume on the theme for the project The Color of Labor: the Racialized Lives of Migrants (ERC Advanced Grant).

According to the source, the conference is jointly sponsored by University of Lisbon (Portugal); the Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture; University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth ; the Ferreira-Mendes Portuguese American Archives (FMPAA); University of Massachusetts ( Dartmouth); the Saab Center for Portuguese Studies; University of Massachusetts ( Lowell ); the Lowell National Historic Park, US National Park Service; the Boott Cotton Mills Museum; the New Bedford Whaling Museum (New Bedford), and Casa dos Açores da Nova Inglaterra, (Fall River).

Source: UMass Dartmouth Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture

Migration and Mill Work: Conference Full Program  (PDF format 

Contact information: Miguel.Moniz@ULisboa.pt                  

PAJ/Reviewed and updated 11/30/17

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