Audio-visual room

WWI Chautauqua, Friday, August 25 at 6:30 p.m.

Keene Chautauqua is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into the Great War as two World War I-era figures come to life on Friday, August 25 at 6:30 at the Keene Public Library, 60 Winter Street. During the event, residents will have the opportunity to come together to explore the First World War and its resonances today. 

“The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty.” With these words, President Woodrow Wilson asked the United States Congress to declare war on Germany. After the 1914 assignation of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria sparked a diplomatic crisis, war raged in Europe for nearly three years. Despite attempts to remain neutral, because of various acts of aggression by Germany, including the death of 128 Americans in the German attack on the British passenger liner RMS Lusitania, the United States officially entered World War I in April 1917.

“Chautauqua” was the name for the Chautauqua Lake area in upstate New York, where the movement began in 1874 as a Methodist summer retreat. A wide range of religious lectures and educational programs attracted a huge following. As it evolved, the Chautauqua movement presented the latest in thinking in politics, economics, literature, science, and religion. New Hampshire Humanities launched the modern Chautauqua program in the state in the 1990s. The Keene Public Library and the Horatio Colony House Museum took it up in 2006.

The family-friendly performance, which is free and open to the general public, will feature portrayals of W.E.B. Dubois, a sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, and a co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and President Woodrow Wilson. Dubois will be played by Charles Everett Pace who tours the country reenacting the lives of some of America’s most influential figures including Frederick Douglass and Malcolm X. Paul Vickery, Ph.D. will play Woodrow Wilson. Vickery is a professor of history at Oral Roberts University. Vickery has presented historical characters such as Henry Ford and Bishop Francis.

For the next several months, the Keene Public Library will be commemorating the period of our nation’s involvement in World War I.  We will be looking at the war through the lens of the arts and the humanities, and programming will include film series, book discussion, musical celebrations, and programs for veterans. The initiative aims to bring veterans and their families together with the general public to explore the continuing relevance of the war by reading, discussing, and sharing insights into the writings of Americans who experienced it firsthand.

This program is part of World War I and America, a two-year national initiative of The Library of America presented in partnership with The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the National World War I Museum and Memorial, and other organizations, with generous support from The National Endowment for the Humanities.  Keene Chautauqua was made possible with support from New Hampshire Humanities, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Humanities, C&S Wholesale Grocers, and the City of Keene’s Martin Luther King, Jr. / Jonathan Daniels Committee. For more information please contact Gail Zachariah at gzachariah@ci.keene.nh.us, nhhumanities.org, and wwiamerica.org.