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Historic Newton receives grant to support documentary film on West Newton school

Historic Newton said it will use a new $20,000 grant to help fund a documentary film about a West Newton school that admitted a diverse group of students during the 19th century, according to a statement.

The grant came from the Northampton-based nonprofit Mass Humanities, which offered funding as part of its “Expand Massachusetts Stories” program.

The grant supports projects which “collect, interpret and/or share narratives about the commonwealth, with an emphasis on the voices and experiences that have gone unrecognized, or have been excluded from public conversation,” the nonprofit’s website said.

Historic Newton is a public/private partnership between the Newton Historical Society and the city, according to the organization.


Its upcoming film, “An Uncommon Education,” will examine a “pioneering educational experiment” at the West Newton English and Classical School, Historic Newton said in its statement.

“At a time when slavery was still the law of the land and women’s suffrage yet a distant goal, the West Newton English and Classical School admitted Black students, foreign students, and women to a forward-looking program of study,” the statement said.

The school was founded by Nathaniel T. Allen in 1854, and empowered its students “to develop their talents, while moving society decisively toward gender and racial equality,” the statement said.

“The Allen School advanced a radical new vision of social and educational equality in the United States in the last half of the 19th century,” the statement said.

Historic Newton said additional funding for its film is needed, and people can make a donation through its website,

John Hilliard can be reached at