A Thank You from the Board of the

African American Heritage House (AAHH) 

The African American Heritage House (AAHH) has completed its season and we want to pause and reflect a brief moment before we launch into 2020 planning.

By any measure, the season was a huge success. For the first time, we were able to present a full nine-week speaker series and we either produced or supported four events every week over the season.

Attendance at our weekly Sunday porch chats grew over the season with the number of returnees being augmented by new visitors each week. These chats were an opportunity to discuss the goals and objectives of the AAHH, to orally share the history of African Americans at Chautauqua and to respond to the many questions raised each week about how to address the lack of racial and ethnic diversity at the Chautauqua Institution.

Our Tuesday Open Houses/Speaker Receptions were used to not only allow our speakers to meet Chautauquans and visitors firsthand but also to share fellowship as we discussed social justice and historical issues from an African American perspective.

Our Wednesday speaker series brought new voices and new perspectives to the Chautauqua community. As they sought to tell the story of the last 400 years, our speakers brought both excitement and keen insight into the Hall of Philosophy.  There, over 6,000 people converged to hear top intellectuals, scholars, and political leaders address topics ranging from the exploitation of Black labor, to the horrors of slavery, to the brilliance of Frederick Douglass, to the power of Black preaching, to the role of music in the struggle, and finally, to the voter suppression of today.

Each of our speakers were followed the next day by a Chautauqua Dialogue, sponsored by the Department of Religion and hosted by the AAHH, focused on the impacts of the speeches on the participants. These grew so large over the season that we had to seek additional venues and additional facilitators to support the Dialogues.

Every season, of course, should end with thanks, and there are many to be given out. First, we want to thank the thousands of people who came to our events, listened, and then engaged in often spirited dialogue. We hope that your minds were stimulated by the discussions, and we look forward to your returning in 2020 to discuss how an off-season of reflections may have impacted your perspectives.

Second, I want to thank our financial supporters, of whom there were many. Without your support, we would not have been able to mount the program and attract the nationally renowned speakers that we did.

Next, we want to thank the Chautauqua Institution, not only for giving us the opportunity to present weekly, but also for the critical logistical support and advice we received during the season. Mounting four events a week was a learning experience for us, made easier by the timely and candid advice and support from the Institution.

Lastly, while it is always dangerous to try and name names as you inevitably will overlook someone, we do want to expressly thank a few individuals and organizations.

  • Our graduate intern, Wayland Whitney, who worked tirelessly to make every aspect of the season a success.

  • Katie White and the Baptist House and its many volunteers, without whom our stumbles would have been magnified instead of minimized.

  • Every denominational house with which we had contact, all of which warmly welcomed us.

  • All the other groups who supported us, including, in particular, the LGBTQ community with whom we share a special bond as marginalized communities.

As we go into planning for the 2020 season and beyond, our goals and objectives remain the same. We want to make Chautauqua a welcoming and compelling place for all people. We want to see the full mosaic of America reflected on the grounds. We want to engage in those “difficult conversations.” Finally, we want to make sure that the real, complete stories are told as we believe very strongly that a better understanding of history will always lead to a better present and future.

Do enjoy the developing seasons and we look forward to seeing you all again next year.

Thank you all for your support! Sincerely, Erroll Davis - President AAHH

(As it appeared September 2, 2019 in chautauqua-grapevine@googlegroups.com).

The African American Heritage House (AAHH) presents its inaugural Chautauqua Speaker Series

June 26: Dr. Joe Trotter – Reiterating the Centrality of Work in African American Urban History

July 4: Dr. David Blight (in cooperation with Chautauqua Institution): Fredrick Douglass’ 4th of July Speech

July 10: Dr. Daina Berry – Soul Values and American Slavery

July 17: Hon. Stacey Abrams, J.D. – The Road to a Fair Fight: A Conversation About Voting Rights

July 22: Dr. Alisha Jones – “Are You Familiar with N.W.A.?”: Deciphering Musical Grievances Against Law Enforcement in African-American Hip-hop

July 31: Michael B. Moore – “The Farther You Can Look Back, The Farther Ahead You Can See.” Or, Why History Matters!

August 7: Dr. Frank Thomas – The Power of African American Preaching

August 14: Dr. Stan Deaton – What About Those Confederate Monuments?

August 21: A week with Dr. Alex Harris and Arts Conservatory for Teens (ACT) – Performances and Presentations with students from St. Pete, FL

For more information, visit our website: www.AAHeritageHouse.org

Presentations will be 3:30 PM in the Hall of Philosophy

Open Houses: Tuesdays, 3:30 PM at 38 Clark

Porch Chats: Sundays, 4:00 PM at the Athenaeum