American Studies Summer Institute

Democracy and Its Discontents:
Interpreting Controversies Over American Suffrage 

July 8-19, 2019 (weekdays)
8:30 AM to 12:30 PM

About the Summer Institute

Join us this summer for an intensive two-week 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 2019 Summer Institute

This year’s program, held at the Kennedy Library, will explore the changing landscape of American voting over time. In this historical moment when issues surrounding voting are again front and center, the Institute will delve into the diverse controversies over suffrage in the political and cultural spheres, past and present.  

The Institute will ask the following underlying questions:

  • How have Americans historically understood enfranchisement and who has been empowered to participate in this civic ritual?
  • How have controversies over suffrage played out in American popular culture? How have social movements surrounding enfranchisement (for women, for African Americans, for people convicted of felonies) been energized by--and fed back into--literary, musical, cinematic and other visual representations?
  • How have disenfranchised Americans asserted their claims in the public sphere? How have powerful figures confronted these challenges to their authority?
  • What is the relationship between technological and demographic change to debates over the right to vote?
  •  How have controversies over ‘rigged’ elections challenged American ideals surrounding free and fair voting? What role does social media play in voting?
  • How have ideas about and practices of civic engagement changed over time?

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 Education Specialist Nina Tisch at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

Graduate Credit or PDPs

Participants may earn three graduate credits in American Studies. Teachers may earn graduate credits or PDPs.

Registration and Cost

For those who wish to receive graduate credit, the fee for this grant-supported course is $495 plus a $10 records fee for non-matriculated students. For teachers taking the course for PDPs only, a non-credit option is available for $150.

The deadline for registration is May 27, 2019.

Download a PDF registration form

In the unlikely 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 middle and high school teachers.

For more information, please contact Nina Tisch at