American Studies Summer Institute

Changemakers: Youth Activism from the Progressive Era to Today 

July 12-23, 2021 (weekdays)
9:00 AM to 12:30 PM

About the Summer Institute

Join us for an intensive ten-day program of thought-provoking lectures and discussions led by distinguished scholars and practitioners. The American Studies Summer Institute, an annual program co-sponsored by the University of Massachusetts Boston American Studies Department and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, offers educators and graduate students the opportunity to explore in depth a rich topic with contemporary resonance drawn from American social, cultural and political history.

The 2021 Summer Institute

Due to uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, we are planning for an Internet-based program with both speakers and participants accessing the course synchronously. In the event conditions on the grounds improve, we may incorporate a hybrid version of the program, with some speakers and participants participating at the Library, while others synchronously participate remotely. We will know more about the possibility of this hybrid option later in the spring.

This year's summer institute will explore youth participation in US social movements from the late 19th century to the present and will focus on labor, anti-war, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, immigrant rights, environmentalism, and gun control campaigns. In this historical moment, when many young people are seeking to make their voices heard, access to stories of youth-led or youth-energized movements can have an empowering effect on young people, increasing their civic engagement.

The Institute will ask the following underlying questions:

  • What are the issues that have galvanized American youth to act?
  • How has their activism evolved from expressions of individual grievances to concerted actions?
  • What were and are the effects on young people and society of youth movements?
  • What were and are the social and civic outcomes of their campaigns?
  • How have adolescent activists navigated adult power and critics?
  • How have youth movements pioneered the use of new rhetorical and political strategies?
  • How have US youth movements linked with global youth movements, and why?
  • How has youth activism figured in cultural productions such as film, music, and literature? What cultural movements and narratives have young activists fashioned, appropriated, or rebutted in service to their goals?

Drawing upon experts from a variety of disciplines and with diverse perspectives, the Institute will be directed by Patricia A. Reeve, Chair and Associate Professor of History at Suffolk University, and Nina Tisch, Education Specialist at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

Graduate Credit or PDPs

Participants may earn three graduate credits in American Studies. For those who wish to receive graduate credit, the fee for this grant-supported course is $495, plus a $10 records fee for nonmatriculated students. For teachers taking the course for PDPs only, a noncredit option is available for $150.


To submit an application for the program, please submit this google form.

The application deadline is June 11, 2021. In the event that registration requests exceed the available capacity, preference will be given to graduate students enrolled in the UMass Boston American Studies Program and to secondary school teachers.

For more information, please contact Nina Tisch at

The Kennedy Library's education and public programs related to civil rights and social justice are sponsored in part by AT&T.

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