September 6, 7 pm: Leigh Montville, “Sting Like a Bee: Muhammad Ali vs. the United States of America, 1966-1971

Leigh MontvilleWith the death of Muhammad Ali in June, 2016, the media and America in general have remembered a hero, a heavyweight champion, an Olympic gold medalist, an icon, and a man who represents the sheer greatness of America. New York Times bestselling author Leigh Montville goes deeper, with a fascinating chronicle of a story that has been largely untold. Muhammad Ali, in the late 1960s, was young, successful, brash, and hugely admired—but with some reservations. He was bombastic and cocky in a way that captured the imagination of America, but also drew its detractors. He was a bold young African American in an era when few people were as outspoken. He renounced his name—Cassius Clay—as being his ‘slave name,’ and joined the Nation of Islam, renaming himself Muhammad Ali. And finally in 1966, after being drafted, he refused to join the military for religious and conscientious reasons, triggering a fight that was larger than any of his bouts in the ring. What followed was a period of legal battles, of cultural obsession, and in some ways of being the very embodiment of the civil rights movement located in the heart of one man. Muhammad Ali was the tip of the arrow, and Leigh Montville brilliantly assembles all the boxing, the charisma, the cultural and political shifting tides, and ultimately the enormous waft of entertainment that always surrounded Ali. Muhammed Ali vs. the United States of America is an important and incredibly engaging book.

Our September lectures are sponsored by Cape Cod Five Savings

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Sept. 13, 7 pm: Michael McNaught: “Britain’s Calvary: The Battle of the Somme, 1916”

The Battle of the Somme, also known as the Somme Offensive, was one of the largest battles of the First World War. Fought between July 1 and November 1, 1916 near the Somme River in France, it was also one of the bloodiest military battles in history. On the first day alone, the British suffered more than 57,000 casualties, and by the end of the campaign the Allies and Central Powers would lose more than 1.5 million men.

Battle-of-the-SommeThe Somme campaign in 1916 was the first great offensive of World War I for the British, and it produced a more critical British attitude toward the war. During and after the Somme, the British army started a real improvement in tactics. Also, the French attacked at the Somme and achieved greater advances on July 1 than the British did, with far fewer casualties. But it is the losses that are most remembered. The first day of the Somme offensive, July 1, 1916, resulted in 57,470 British casualties, greater than the total combined British casualties in the Crimean, Boer, and Korean wars. In contrast, the French, with fewer divisions, suffered only around 2,000 casualties. By the time the offensive ended in November, the British had suffered around 420,000 casualties, and the French about 200,000. German casualty numbers are controversial, but may be about 465,000.

Our September lectures are sponsored by Cape Cod Five Savings

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Saturday, September 16, 2 pm: Dava Sobel, “The Glass Universe”

PART OF THE ‘WHY DIDN’T I KNOW ABOUT THIS?’ SERIES OF LECTURES ON mass-humanities-logoWOMEN’S HISTORY, SPONSORED BY MASSHUMANITIES

 

 In the mid-nineteenth century, the Harvard College Observatory began employing women as calculators, or “human computers,” to interpret the observations their male counterparts made via telescope each night. At the outset this group included the wives, sisters, and daughters of the resident astronomers, but soon the female corps included graduates of the new women’s colleges—Vassar, Wellesley, and Smith. As photography transformed the practice of astronomy, the ladies turned from computation to studying the stars captured nightly on glass photographic plates.

glass-universeThe “glass universe” of half a million plates that Harvard amassed over the ensuing decades—through the generous support of Mrs. Anna Palmer Draper, the widow of a pioneer in stellar photography—enabled the women to make extraordinary discoveries that attracted worldwide acclaim. They helped discern what stars were made of, divided the stars into meaningful categories for further research, and found a way to measure distances across space by starlight. Their ranks included Williamina Fleming, a Scottish woman originally hired as a maid who went on to identify ten novae and more than three hundred variable stars; Annie Jump Cannon, who designed a stellar classification system that was adopted by astronomers the world over and is still in use; and Dr. Cecilia Helena Payne, who in 1956 became the first ever woman professor of astronomy at Harvard—and Harvard’s first female department chair.

Our March lectures are sponsored by First Citizens Federal Credit UnionFirst Citizens

Wednesday, Sept. 20, 7 pm: Glenn Frankel, “High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of An American Classic”

High NoonIt’s one of the most revered movies of Hollywood’s golden era. Starring screen legend Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly in her first significant film role, High Noon was shot on a lean budget over just thirty-two days but achieved instant box-office and critical success. It won four Academy Awards in 1953, including a best actor win for Cooper. And it became a cultural touchstone, often cited by politicians as a favorite film, celebrating moral fortitude.

Yet what has been often overlooked is that High Noon was made during the height of the Hollywood blacklist, a time of political inquisition and personal betrayal. In the middle of the film shoot, screenwriter Carl Foreman was forced to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities about his former membership in the Communist Party. Refusing to name names, he was eventually blacklisted and fled the United States. (His co-authored screenplay for another classic, The Bridge on the River Kwai, went uncredited in 1957.) Examined in light of Foreman’s testimony, High Noon‘s emphasis on courage and loyalty takes on deeper meaning and importance.

In this book, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Frankel tells the story of the making of a great American Western, exploring how Carl Foreman’s concept of High Noon evolved from idea to first draft to final script, taking on allegorical weight. Both the classic film and its turbulent political times emerge newly illuminated

Our September lectures are sponsored by Cape Cod Five

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Thursday, September 28, 7 pm: Fred Morin & John Galluzzo, “A History of Massachusetts Aviation”

Explore the Bay State’s Aviation History

mass-aviationShortly after the Wright brothers took to the air, aviation fever gripped Massachusetts. The biggest names in the industry, including Wilbur Wright, Glenn Curtiss, and Claude Graham-White, among others, flew in for the first major air shows, further exciting the people of the Bay State about the potential of manned flight in the realms of military tactics, the expansion of commerce, and even personal transportation. By the 1920s, Massachusetts had become home to the first Naval Air Reserve Base, in Quincy; one of the first Coast Guard Air Stations, in Gloucester; and the Boston Airfield, which would become the largest international airport in New England. Within a few decades, individuals like Edward Lawrence Logan, Frank Otis, Oscar Westover, and Laurence G. Hanscomb would permanently leave their names on the Massachusetts landscape in connection with the airports and airfields still used today.

Our September lectures are sponsored by Cape Cod Five Savings 

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