BOMBYX is a non-profit organization established to steward the property at 130 Pine Street, in Florence, Massachusetts - a historic gathering place founded by abolitionists who championed anti-slavery, gender equity, and religious tolerance. Carrying these values forward, we serve our community as a venue for transformative arts experiences, spiritual growth, and challenging conversations.
CENTER FOR ARTS & EQUITY
In 1842, a group of activists, farmers, teachers and businessmen banded together to form the Northampton Association of Education and Industry (NAEI). Founded on the principles of abolitionism, temperance, pacifism, gender equality and religious tolerance, the group established a silk mill and utopian community in the village now known as Florence, MA.
Members of the community and visitors met often beneath a massive old growth pine to debate issues of the day and hold important meetings. The 150-foot-tall tree stood right next to what is now the Bombyx Center through 1885. Though the community lasted just over four years before officially disbanding, members carried on in what they called the "neighborhood community" planting their radical values in homesteads of their own.
In 1846, the NAEI sold off their silk mill and 100 acres, including the Pine Grove, to abolitionist churchmen and local industrialists who provided jobs for formerly enslaved workers. Underground Railroad assistant Moses Breck built the beautiful church from the plans of William Fenno Pratt. Northampton Deacon and UGRR agent John Payson Williston and others insisted that anti-slavery language be included in the bylaws of the Florence Congregational Church that extended full voting rights to women of the congregation as well.
A VIBRANT FUTURE
Today, the descendants of that original 150 foot pine tree sway in the grove behind the sanctuary. The property is home not only to its original congregation but also the reform synagogue, Beit Ahavah. It is also a world class performance venue, art exhibition space, and community gathering place.
The name Bombyx references the silk moth (bombyx mori) imported to the region in the first half of the 19th century - a profound rejection of southern cotton and the global economic power of slavery.
Many local residents are unaware of the town's activist history. Frederick Douglass gave speeches under that original pine, as did William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillps. Sojourner Truth and David Ruggles lived within walking distance and were active in the region for many years.
We are excited to knit together our global music offerings with the town's deep history, creating an incubator for challenging conversations, spiritual growth, and transformative arts experiences. Issues of equity span time and geography. Our work is the next chapter in an already long history of bold, creative thinking.