Ford Hall Forum in New Partnership with Suffolk University

Jimmy Wales


Ford Hall Forum celebrates its centennial this year, returning to its roots on Beacon Hill in a new partnership with Suffolk University.

The fall season will commence in September with “Free Speech, Free Minds, Free Markets: Competition and Collaboration,” a presentation by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and journalist Christopher Lydon, who will discuss where “Web 2.0” will take us next.

The nation’s oldest free public lecture series began in 1908 as a series of Sunday-evening public meetings at Ford Hall on Beacon Hill. The Forum is now housed in Suffolk University’s Fenton Building – a block away from where prominent Boston businessman George W. Coleman hosted the initial lectures 100 years ago – and many of this year’s lectures will be held at the University’s C. Walsh Theatre.

Coleman’s unique format, which provided equal time for speakers’ remarks and questions from the audience, gave any interested citizen the opportunity to debate issues with some of the most influential figures of the day.  According to Coleman’s vision, the lecture series would enable the “full, free and open discussion of all vital questions affecting human welfare.” 

Since Coleman’s time, the Forum has gone on to host discussions with the most intriguing figures in our nation’s modern history, including Louis Brandeis, W.E.B. DuBois, Al Gore, Maya Angelou, Garrison Keillor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Henry Kissinger, Ayn Rand, Eleanor Roosevelt, Cokie Roberts and Malcolm X. 

While the original hall no longer exists, the Forum’s public conversations have continued throughout the Greater Boston area with the generous support of foundations, corporations, academic institutions and individuals.

Suffolk University is providing the Forum with the opportunity to “come home” not only to Beacon Hill but also into an academic environment that shares a similar spirit and history of public education and civic dialogue. 

“Both organizations were born in the progressive era, and both have a commitment to free speech and interactive learning,” said Dean Kenneth S. Greenberg of the University’s College of Arts and Sciences. “We are eager for our community to engage in the excitement of live public discourse that is the heart of the Ford Hall Forum events.” 

For more information on the history of the Ford Hall Forum, contact Alex Minier at 617-557-2007.   


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Greg Gatlin

Mariellen Norris