It’s not every day that people in tri-cornered hats appear in the Sawyer Building crooning “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and wielding fifes and drums. But every day isn’t Evacuation Day, and most universities don’t have a History Department chair like Bob Allison. To commemorate the date when British troops evacuated Boston during the Revolutionary War, Allison staged a “History Slam” re-enactment starring several alumni dressed as historical figures on April 17.
Allison has staged Evacuation Day re-enactments at citywide elementary and high schools for several years. He also brought the slam to Suffolk this year – just steps from the Freedom Trail and Revolutionary War landmarks
The 40-minute educational presentations are a lively respite from textbooks, and the response is always powerful. “This can be transformative for students. We might see 800 students in one day,” Allison says. This year, they visited schools including Up Academy Charter School, South Boston Catholic Academy, Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy, and St. John School in the North End. After the performances, Allison often leaves students with reading materials—and maybe even their very own tri-cornered hats.
Several Suffolk alumni donned 18th-century regalia for the slam. By day, Suffolk graduate Moss Lynch ’14 works at the South Boston Community Health Center. He was master of ceremonies, explaining the significance of Evacuation Day and Patriots’ Day. “Moss got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication, and I thought he’d be more eloquent than I am,” Allison laughs. “I used to wear my commencement robes and talk about history. My wife thought a re-enactment would be more engaging.”
Allison got in on the action, though: He gamely transformed into Boston merchant John Rowe, proprietor of what is now Rowe’s Wharf. “Rowe tried to stay neutral between the colonists and the British,” he explains.
Alex Rittershaus ’11, a seasoned re-enactor and Suffolk law student, portrayed British soldier Oliver Smith, and Dennis Hickey ’13, a marketer at Wegmans, became Concord resident Jonas Hartwell, son of a large farming family. Mt. Washington Bank and the South Boston Historical Society sponsored the reenactment, and a small honorarium allowed alumni to take a day out of work for the festivities.
The troupe gathered at the Sawyer Building’s lobby, and then marched outside playing fifes and drums to the tune of “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “Chester,” which Allison says were the most popular Revolutionary-era hits.
“The Suffolk classes loved it, and everyone got in the spirit,” Allison says. “Many posed for pictures with us, and they’ve been posting commentary on our class blogs.”
View photos from the History Slam on Facebook.