Pierce Performance Series

The Pierce Performance Series seeks to raise the visibility of the Boston Public Library’s Special Collections through free public performances and lectures. Thanks to the generosity of the Harold Whitworth Pierce Charitable Trust our upcoming performances will explore abolitionists' vital messages and celebrate women's suffrage.



Pierce Performance
Do letters written more than 150 years ago in opposition to the institution of slavery in the United States still matter today?  Can the words of the abolitionists help us to understand the foundations of social and political movements in our time? Giving Voice to the Abolitionists explores these questions through the performance of a group of young actors as they read the words and letters of abolitionists.

Giving Voice to the Abolitionists features five remarkable students from the Boston Arts Academy, sharing letters originally written by William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Lydia Maria Child, and Amos Augustus Phelps.  Wellesley College Assistant Professor Kellie Carter Jackson introduces the readings and argues for the letters critical relevance today. The video was produced in collaboration with Artists for Humanity.

In the late 1890s, the family of William Lloyd Garrison, along with others closely involved in the anti-slavery movement, presented Boston Public Library with a major gathering of correspondence, documents, and other original material relating to the abolitionist cause from 1832 until after the American Civil War.

The Library's Anti-Slavery Collection contains about 40,000 pieces of correspondence, broadsides, newspapers, pamphlets, books, and realia spanning a 35-year period. The major holdings consist of the papers of William Lloyd Garrison, Maria Weston Chapman and Deborah Weston, Lydia Maria Child, Amos Augustus Phelps, and Samuel May Jr.; records of the American, Massachusetts, New England, and Female Anti-Slavery Societies; and the personal libraries of William Lloyd Garrison, Theodore Parker, and Wendell Phillips.

Giving Voice to the Abolitionists premiered on YouTube on December 9, 2020.



FUTURE Pierce Performance

PLEASE NOTE: The following performance has been postponed until summer 2021 due to the pandemic. Please check back for the updated performance date.



The women’s suffrage movement was a decades-long fight to win the right to vote for women in the United States. The 19th Amendment, which guarantees women the right to vote, was finally passed by Congress on June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920. To mark the upcoming 100th anniversary of this historic event, the Associates of the Boston Public Library commissioned a play celebrating many of the advocates who brought about this radical change.

Pierce Performance
Please join us for the world premiere of ONWARD – Votes for Women, a documentary play created by Lisa Rafferty, with music arranged and composed by Adam R. McDonald. The production offers the powerful and inspiring voices and perspectives of the extraordinary women who fought for seventy years for equality. Over twenty historical characters from the movement, along with women leaders from our time, will be portrayed by an ensemble of ten.

The cast, featuring many renowned members of the Boston arts community, will play multiple roles, including: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, Lucy Stone, Alice Paul, Mary Church Terrell, Louisa May Alcott, Shirley Chisholm, Betty Ford, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gloria Steinem. The script was created using language verbatim from documents in the Boston Public Library's Special Collections, and other speeches, letters, articles and interviews from a variety of sources. Suffrage music and songs will be interspersed throughout the production, along with an original score.


Past Pierce Performances