There’s no doubt that Georgia is a treasure trove of history. From ancient native American inhabitants to the colonial and Civil War eras, the state has covered a wide span of time.
During the course of those decades, many remarkable people have called the “Peach State” home. And that’s the topic of the latest Chautauqua Series to be offered by the Coastal Georgia Historical Society.
This year’s program is titled, “Georgia Roots, National Influence: Four Noted Americans who have called Georgia Home.”
Mimi Rogers, curator, says this program, which began in 1990, builds on the success of previous years. Each series is unique, she said, but all ties back into the area’s past.
“Each year, we select a theme related to coastal history and develop a series of four lectures exploring that theme. The caliber of our speakers is high,” she said.
“They include best-selling authors and noted historians from across the U.S. and Canada, selected for their depth of knowledge and audience appeal. The themes change each year, so those attending are exposed to a wide-range of topics related to our coastal history.”
This year’s theme will include a number of elements presented in different ways. Rogers notes that one of the programs will hold true to the Chautauqua method, an educational program popularized in the mid-1920s.
“Author Clay Jenkinson will first appear in costume portraying President Theodore Roosevelt and describe Roosevelt’s relationship with his mother, Martha Bulloch, who grew up in Roswell, Ga. Then he will answer questions as Roosevelt, and finally will answer questions as himself, a humanities scholar,” she said.
“This is the first time that we will present a lecture using the Chautauqua Method, and I think those attending will find the historical portrayal of our 26th president to be very interesting and informative.”
Jenkinson will be the second presenter. The first lecture will feature Andrew Phillips, curator of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library in Staunton, Va.
He will kick off the series at 6 p.m. Aug. 8 at the A.W. Jones Heritage Center’s event hall on St. Simons Island. The program he will share is entitled “Ellen Axson Wilson: First Georgian in the White House.” Though she died during her husband’s first term as president, the Savannah native was a highly influential force during his rise to power.
Trained as an artist, Ellen Wilson’s role as first lady varied from spearheading public welfare programs to designing the White House Rose Garden.
Subsequent discussions will be held at the same time and location on August 15, 22 and 29. The cost of the series is $50 for members and $95 for non-members. Registration is required by visiting coastalgeorgiahistory.org or calling 912-634-7090.
The following information includes a brief description of the topics to be covered during each session:
• Aug. 15: “Johnny Mercer: Southern Songwriter for the World.” Savannah’s son Johnny Mercer will be discussed during this program offered by Glenn Eskew, Ph.D. It will include details of Mercer’s move to New York City in 1927 and his Academy Award-winning song “Moon River.”
Eskew is a Georgia Southern University professor of history and an author, who has lectured on Southern culture around the world.
• Aug. 22: “A Beautiful Southern Woman: Martha Bulloch Roosevelt. This program will be the true Chautauqua-style living history presentation of Theodore Roosevelt by Clay Jenkinson. Jenkinson will portray Roosevelt who will talk about his mother, Martha “Mittie” Bulloch of Roswell.
Jenkinson is host of the nationally syndicated radio program “The Thomas Jefferson Hour” and is author of several books on prominent Americans. A Rhodes Scholar, Jenkinson is a winner of the National Humanities Medal and has appeared in three Ken Burns documentaries, including “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.”
• Aug. 29: “Robert Abbott and the Legendary Newspaper that Changed America.” The final program will focus on St. Simons Island native, Robert Abbott, who founded “The Chicago Defender” in 1905 after moving north. John Sengstacke, Abbott’s Savannah-born nephew and successor as publisher of the newspaper, will also be discussed. The Defender grew to have the highest circulation of any African-American owned newspaper in the world.
The presenter will be Ethan Michaeli, author of the critically acclaimed book, “The Defender: How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America,” which was named a Notable Book of 2016 by The New York Times and the Washington Post.
After earning a degree in English language and literature from the College at the University of Chicago, Michaeli worked as a copy editor and reporter at “The Defender” in the 1990s. He founded the “Residents’ Journal,” a magazine for Chicago public housing tenants, which won numerous national awards and grants. He currently lectures at the University of Chicago’s Harris Public Policy School and is senior advisor at the Goldin Institute.