The Open Forum Movement

Portraits of George Coleman, undated

Ford Hall Founder George A. Coleman

After witnessing the transformative power of education for working-class and immigrant audiences at Cooper Union in New York City, businessman and Boston Baptist Social Union President George W. Coleman was inspired to create a similar program in Boston in February of 1908.  Thus, the Open Forum Movement began on Beacon Hill, inviting Bostonians of all backgrounds to participate in the democratic process through discussion and debate.  Building on the success of Boston's Forum, similar programs sprang up across the country.

From the very beginning, provided a platform for speakers to present their ideas and then engage in conversation with the audience.  Typically, the question and answer portion of events lasted as long as the lectures.  The Forum often provided their stage to progressive and controversial views which led to its disassociation from the Boston Baptist Social Union in 1929.

 

The Open Forum Movement