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Chautauqua is historical tourism at its finest. It’s your chance to time travel to another era and meet some of history’s most illustrious characters. Historical enactments include a monologue “in character” and an opportunity to pose questions to both the visiting luminary and the scholar/presenter. Daytime workshops and lectures give further glimpses of the social, cultural and political nuances of the era.

The theme for Summer Chautauqua 2024 is, “60 Years Since the Civil Rights Act: Lift Every Voice,” which explores the enduring significance of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The week-long event highlights five individuals who understood that the Act was critical to ending the segregation of two highly unequal societies in America.

Characters to be portrayed include (location in photo):

  • Tuesday, June 11: Earl Warren (far left). He led the court to strike down segregation with Brown vs. School Board, open voting rights in Baker vs. Carr & Reynolds vs. Sims, and uphold criminal rights to counsel  and protections in Miranda and Gideon vs. Wainwright, by Doug Mishler
  • Wednesday, June 12: Rosa Parks (second from left). Often called the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement,” an ordinary person who did extraordinary things, by Vanessa Adams-Harris
  • Thursday, June 13: Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson (second from right). An unlikely but surprisingly influential civil rights activist who showed the South that the end of segregation and Jim Crow laws would improve their region economically and ease it into the modern world, by Leslie Goddard
  • Friday, June 14: Thurgood Marshall (far right). A civil rights lawyer who defined the achievements of an era, by Jim Armstead
  • Saturday, June 15: Coretta Scott King (center). Her activism started before her marriage, then it complimented and influenced her husband’s political work, continuing long after his assassination, by Rebecca Jimerson

Workshops will be held at 10:30 am and Noon each day. Feature performances begin with live entertainment at 6:30 pm followed by the scholar at 7:30 pm. Admission to all Chautauqua events is always free.

Workshop schedule


10:30 am: The Oklahoma Brown Case with Vanessa Adams-Harris.

In the 1950’s a small town in Oklahoma, Bartlesville, is where Miss Ruth W. Brown, librarian was summarily dismissed after 30 years of service because she had circulated subversive materials. What materials did a library hold that would be considered subversive? The Brown case exemplifies the strange period of the Cold War known as the McCarthy era and racial integration in Oklahoma.

12 pm: The Music of the Civil Rights Movement with Rebecca Jimerson

This workshop will delve into the music of the Civil Rights Movement drawing inspiration from African American spirituals, gospel hymns, blues, jazz, and folk songs music. The songs of the movement were a powerful source to uplift, strengthen, and spread messages of hope. Handouts to be circulated to workshop attendees.


10:30 am: Rating the First Ladies with Leslie Goddard

The role of First Lady comes with no job description, no pay, and no written requirements. Yet America’s presidential spouses have wielded great influence and have always been subject to intense public scrutiny. In this interactive illustrated lecture, historian Leslie Goddard, Ph.D., explores which First Ladies have ranked highest and lowest with historians. Who do you think was best or worst? Why were some so vilified? And what might the future hold for the role of American First Lady?

12 pm: War and a Question of Rights with Doug Mishler

This workshop will explore how a variety of wars from the Revolution to the war on terror have affected the rights of individual Americans.  From Shaping the Bill of Rights in the 18th century, to freedom of speech during WWI, internment in WW2, Cold War hysteria and loyalty oaths, to taking off your shoes to get on a plane we explore the variety of rights issues some major, some rather silly.


10:30 am: The Civil War Amendments with Jim Armstead

The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the US Constitution individually marked important milestones in American history and collectively served to satisfy the war aims of the Lincoln administration. However, as these new freedoms changed American society in so many varied and unanticipated ways and set the stage for a living constitution that could be molded to answer the expanding legal needs of a complex and rapidly growing society into the 20th and 21st centuries, the general citizenry remained unaware of the historic connections to slavery and a redefinition of our citizenship.

12 pm: Unsung Heroes of the Civil Rights Movement with Vanessa Adams-Harris

From the children here in Oklahoma with Clara Luper in Oklahoma City, a young Claudette Colvin who at 15 refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus, to the Citizenship Education Program throughout the south and its rural communities.  Just who, what and where?


10:30 am: Coretta Scott King and the “Freedom Concerts” with Rebecca Jimerson

This workshop will present the storied history of the Freedom Concerts. Combining poetry, narration, and music to tell the story of the Civil Rights movement. Concluding with participants staging a Freedom Concert. Handouts to be circulated to workshop attendees.

12 pm: The Lady Bird Special by Leslie Goddard

In October 1964, the Lady Bird Special train pulled away from Washington D.C. Over the next four days, the nineteen-car train carried First Lady Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson on a whistle-stop tour of eight Southern states to garner support for Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidential campaign in the face of fierce opposition to his civil rights reforms. In this lecture, we’ll explore the story of the Lady Bird Special and how Lady Bird used the historic trip to appeal to the minds and hearts of her fellow Southerners while confronting the racism that still prevailed in the region she called home.


10:30 am: The Supreme Court’s Role in American Life with Doug Mishler

We will cover not just the Warren Court but peruse a variety of Supreme Courts from the first of John Marshall up to the Roberts’ Court today.  We will explore how the Court has been called upon to decide cases that had an immense effect on American society and culture.  From Judicial Review to Civil Rights, Slavery, Voting Rights, Abortion, free speech, rights of the accused; just about every topic in American life has one time or another (and sometimes many times) has been affected by the high Court’s decision.  Hopefully this will foster a very relevant discussion about the Court’s role in America today and tomorrow.

12 pm: Plessy vis a vis Brown with Jim Armstead

The Supreme Court responded to the legal challenge against state sanctioned involuntary segregation in 1896 with an attempted social compromise using the tortured language of the separate but equal doctrine to support the status quo. This deliberate misinterpretation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment denied the specific intent of the law to satisfy the overwhelming desire of white supremacists in the southern states to retain the sanctioned Jim Crow system of racial separation in all public spaces. Brown attacked this interpretation of Constitutional law within the confines of public education by the novel use of sociological data demonstrating that in an egalitarian political system order to successfully deny access to a public service or resource, otherwise available, solely based on race served to permanently stigmatize the victim rendering a legal categorization of separate as inherently unequal and hence impermissible under our scheme of constitutional protections.

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