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Chautauqua & Chat with historical figures Walt Whitman, Josiah Henson, and Richard Wright

In this webinar series you will learn about three historical figures: the father of free verse poetry, an abolitionist minister, and originator of the phrase "Black Power"

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Time & Location





About the Event


Each Chautauqua & Chat webinar is FREE and features a 60-minute performance by a scholar who impersonates a significant historical figure. Attendees have the opportunity to ask questions of both the historical character and the scholar. 

January 29th, 4pm CST impersonation of Walt Whitman

January 30th, 7pm CST impersonation of Josiah Henson

January 31st, 7pm CST impersonation of Richard Wright


Patrick Scully presents Leaves of Grass summoning the spirit of America’s great poet, Walt Whitman. This show is about history, art, and literature - presenting aspects of Whitman’s life and work that are fascinating for our time, in which discussions of male/male relations have moved into every section of the newspaper. Leaves of Grass reflects Whitman’s utopian dreams, and his 19th century tribulations. It presents fascinating aspects of Whitman’s life, times and work. It pulls from history, art, literature, even opera. Whitman crafted clear strategies to deal with the social pressures and the consequences he faced for writing about taboo topics. This is a side of Whitman that few of us learned about in our American Literature classes. Some of these taboos have disappeared, others are still very relevant - such as relationships between men, and the forces that seek to deny them. Scully reveals Whitman’s many sides: from the furtive—changing genders to “straighten things up”, to the fierce—defying the censors and getting banned in Boston. 200+ years after his birth. We see that Whitman is also an important artist for our era; a poet who loved America, and used his writing to strategically transform it.

Patrick Scully is a Minneapolis based performing artist entrepreneur, and activist. Scully’s most current project is Leaves of Grass – Illuminated, marking a shift from autobiography, to biography. Scully is known for work ranging from large scale group works to solo work. His largest works include: a Ballet for Boats, for forty to fifty boats, done to great critical acclaim in both Minneapolis (2015) and Potsdam, Germany (2010); His solo works, more intimate and often autobiographical, and also highly acclaimed, have included works ranging from Too Soon Lost (1990) to Thrive! (2010). Leaves of Grass- Illuminated began as a large scale work for two actors and 18 male dancers in 2014. It has has been finely honed into this one man show. Scully began dancing in 1972 in college. In 1976 he co-founded Contactworks, a dance collective focused on contact improvisation. He danced with Remy Charlip, beginning with Remy’s Ten Men show in the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival in 1984. Performing his own work, Scully has toured internationally receiving awards and kudos: “A fresh thoroughly entertaining evening of theater performed by a gifted original” NYTimes. Scully is the founder, long time director of Patrick’s Cabaret, in Minneapolis.


Although best known as one of the bases for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom,” Josiah Henson can be understood as a Methodist circuit-rider who believed even slave owners could receive redemption through repudiating slavery. Henson appeared popularly late in life using his story as a Canadian abolitionist to extoll the virtues of redemption of Americans of West African and of European descent by saving their souls from slavery.

Eric Robinson, graduated from Howard University (BA, 1987) and from the University of Missouri-Columbia (MA, 1989). He has presented the Underground Railroad tour of Alton, Illinois, since 1995, drawing groups from around the world. His tours have been featured in the New York Times, on the BBC World Service, and in the docuseries “Underground Railroad Secrets,” aired on Science/Discovery channels and on PBS. He is an assistant professor of history at the University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis.


Richard Wright (1908-1960) was a preeminent American writer.  Author of the novel Native Son (1940) and the autobiography Black Boy  (1945) Wright pioneered an influential school of protest literature. He became the first Black writer to pen a bestseller selection that overtly criticized white supremacy. Wright’s meteoric career is particularly noteworthy given his beginnings. Born into dire poverty and oppression in segregated Mississippi, his journey to international success was so unlikely that upon meeting him the most famous sociologist of the 1940’s asked, “How in hell did YOU happen?”  Following his success, Wright grew disillusioned with the United States, and relocated to France. Before his early death at age 52, he coined the phrase “Black Power” in support of African anti-colonial revolutions.  Darryl Lorenzo Wellington recreates Wright’s final days — when the tenacious writer was beleaguered by both the American and the French governments because of his commitment to international justice—  delivering a lecture to an American audience in Paris.

Darryl Lorenzo Wellington was born in Savannah, Georgia, and a long-time resident of Charleston, South Carolina, before relocating to the Southwest. Darryl Lorenzo Wellington is the 2001-2023 Santa Fe, NM Poet Laureate. His full-length poetry collection is Psalms at the Present Time (Flowstone Press, 2021). He is also a journalist and essayist whose articles have appeared internationally. His best-known articles include “New Orleans: A Right to Return” a lengthy exploration of repatriation issues following Hurricane Katrina (Dissent magazine)  “The Twisted Business of Donating Plasma” an expose of the plasma industry (The Atlantic) and “Reality Publishing” a philosophical reexamination of the Amazon publishing phenomenon (N+1 magazine). He is a playwright and performance artist, who has appeared on the Tavis Smiley radio show. His work in poetry, prose and performance centers on political and social movements, economic justice, civil rights history and race relations.


Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this {article, book, exhibition, film, program, database, report, Web resource}, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or Humanities North Dakota.

However, in an increasingly polarized world, we at Humanities North Dakota believe that being open-minded is necessary to thinking critically and rationally.

Therefore, our programs and classes reflect our own open-mindedness in the inquiry, seeking, and acquiring of scholars to speak at our events and teach classes for our Public University.

To that end, we encourage our participants to join us in stepping outside our comfort zones and considering other perspectives and ideas by being open-minded while attending HND events featuring scholars who hold a variety of opinions, some being opposite of our own held beliefs.

Humanities North Dakota classes and events are funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities

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