BAR HARBOR — Explore a convergence of cultures in Bar Harbor during a time when nativism and racism were powerful forces in American Society with Mount Desert Island Historical Society Executive Director Tim Garrity and College of the Atlantic trustee Ron Beard at COA’s weekly Coffee and Conversation salon in the Deering Common Community Center on Tuesday, Aug. 2, at 9 a.m. The talk is free and open to the public.
A master historian and writer, Garrity will discuss “Immigrants in the Borderland, 1880-1920,” a history of Mount Desert Island that connects the immigration issues of a century ago to today’s Twitter feed.
“Tim Garrity’s scholarship encourages us to see ourselves and our condition in fresh ways,” Beard said. “In our upcoming conversation, I am keen to learn how we might make use of our shared local history to understand, and therefore guide us away from, the politics of isolation and its most negative consequences, whether on Mount Desert Island, or the British islands, or elsewhere.”
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as a tourist economy boomed in Bar Harbor, a wave of foreign immigrants arrived to find a place and culture already occupied by native Mainers and wealthy and influential summer residents who had well-established and powerfully held ideas about foreigners. In time, Garrity wrote, immigrants overcame long-established prejudices, while locals and summer residents set aside their fears to create a more accepting community.
For Garrity, the topic of the presentation is both political and personal, he said.
“I hear in our public discourse the same fear-filled language that was common a century ago,” said Garrity, an Irish-American. “No child of the Irish, or any other immigrant group, should stay quiet when the political speech that once denigrated our grandparents is being recycled for a new audience.”
Garrity writes and presents on a wide range of Mount Desert Island histories, including the Civil War and its impact on soldiers, sailors, women and dissidents; historian Francis Parkman’s arguments against women’s suffrage, and how Acadia’s mountains got their names. He is the managing editor of the society’s annual magazine, “Chebacco,” and holds a master’s degree in history from the University of Maine.
COA’s Coffee and Conversation Series spans the cultural, political and social issues shaping our world. Guest speakers include writers, scientists, business leaders and artists. Conversations take place weekly at College of the Atlantic’s Eden Street campus through August.