The Great Molasses Flood Revisited: Labor and the Molasses Flood

THU, FEB 28, 2019 (1:12:44)

One hundred years ago, a North End community was devastated by the rupture of a molasses tank that caused damage to the neighborhood and claimed twenty-one lives.

Debate over the fallout of the flood remain in the folklore of Boston to this day. Questions on the matter pertaining to the role of big business taking responsibility for the flood damage and how reactions were handled by all involved still resonate. 

Stephen Puleo, author of the book Dark Tide, and a panel with first-hand knowledge of labor issues then and now, discuss these lingering questions and relate them to what's happening in Boston's service industry now.

Image: Old South Meeting House

+ BIO: Steve Puleo

Stephen Puleo is an author, historian, and communications professional. His books include The Boston Italians: A Story of Pride, Perseverance and Paesani, from the Years of the Great Immigration to the Present Day, Due to Enemy Action: The True World War II Story of the USS Eagle 56, and Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919.

In 2008, Steve was the recipient of the Outstanding Achievement Award, presented by the Appian Club, an Italian American organization dedicated to preserving and promoting Italian culture in Massachusetts. In 2007, he was a recipient of the prestigious i migliori award, presented by the Pirandello Lyceum to Italian-Americans who have excelled in their fields of endeavor and made important contributions to society.

+ BIO: Dr. Karilyn Crockett

Dr. Karilyn Crockett focuses her research on large-scale land use changes in twentieth century American cities and examines the social and geographic implications of structural poverty. Karilyn’s new book "People before Highways: Boston Activists, Urban Planners, and a New Movement for City Making" (UMASS Press 2018) investigates a 1960s era grassroots movement to halt urban extension of the U.S. interstate highway system and the geographic and political changes in Boston that resulted. Karilyn was the co-founder of Multicultural Youth Tour of What's Now (MYTOWN), an award winning, Boston-based, educational non-profit organization. MYTOWN hired public high school students to research their local and family histories to produce youth-led walking tours for sale to public audiences. During its nearly 15 years of operation, MYTOWN created jobs for more than 300 low and moderate-income teenagers, who in turn led public walking tours for more than 14,000 visitors and residents. In a White House ceremony, the National Endowment for the Humanities cited MYTOWN as “One of ten best Youth Humanities Programs in America.”

Karilyn holds a PhD from the American Studies program at Yale University, a Master of Science in Geography from the London School of Economics, and a Master of Arts and Religion from Yale Divinity School. She currently serves as the Director of Economic Policy & Research and Director of Small Business Development for the City of Boston and is a research affiliate in the Department of Urban Studies & Planning at MIT. Karilyn’s career mission is to work at the nexus of education, economic development and urban revitalization.

+ BIO: Dr. Robert Forrant

Dr. Robert Forrant is a professor in the History Department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, teaching courses on global labor issues, labor history, immigration, and international development. He is director's of the department's graduate program. He has been a consultant to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, the International Labour Organization, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the International Metalworkers Federation, and several trade unions. His research activities have been funded by, among others: the International Metalworkers Federation, the International Labour Organization, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Russell Sage Foundation, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the cities of Lowell and Leominister, Massachusetts. Professor Forrant is the editor of three volumes on sustainable regional development, the author of numerous published articles and reports and a forthcoming book on industrial development and decline in the Connecticut River Valley and New England. Before completing his graduate education, he worked as a machinist and union business agent at the now closed American Bosch plant in Springfield , MA and ran a community-based economic development program.  He received the University of Massachusetts President's Award for Public Service in 1998. He received an American Antiquarian Society Kate B. and Hall J. Peterson Fellowship in 2001 and during that year began research on Worcester Massachusetts-area machine tool firms in the period 1830-1875.  He analyzes and reports on the Massachusetts industrial economy for the journal Massachusetts Benchmarks, a joint publication of the University of Massachusetts and the New England Federal Reserve Bank and he writes a monthly column on the economy for the Lowell Sun. 

+ BIO: Courtney Loenard

Courtney Leonard was born and raised in South Boston. She works in Boston's service industry and is a union member who is demanding fair wages and healthcare.

+ BIO: Carlos Aramayo

Carlos Aramayo is the Financial Secretary Treasurer of Boston's Local 26, UNITE HERE, a union representing workers in the hospitality industries of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Members work in Boston and Providence hotels, restaurants, and university dining halls in addition to the Boston Convention Centers, Fenway Park and Logan International Airport. They clean hotel rooms, greet guests, and prepare and serve food for hundreds of thousands of travelers to Boston and the northeast.

Follow Carlos on Twitter.

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