2014 High Plains Chautauqua program
explores impact of Civil War and Reconstruction

High Plains Chautauqua will bring notable 19th century leaders to life on stage in Greeley Aug. 5-9. Chautauqua offers a unique blend of theatre, history, and the humanities under the big tent where audiences meet and engage in conversation with personalities from the past. The event takes place on the Aims Community College campus.

The 2014 festival theme is A New Birth of Freedom? In conjunction with the national commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the program will focus on the war years, especially the time of the Emancipation Proclamation, and the subsequent Reconstruction period.


Tuesday, August 5
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), slain by an assassin’s bullet after the Confederate surrender, had plans for Reconstruction that included moderate policies for re-uniting the Union as quickly as possible. Lincoln never lost faith in the spirit of America, focusing on “what America could be.”

Prior to Lincoln’s presentation, local Young Chautauquans will portray Andrew Johnson, Mary Chesnut and Thaddeus Stevens on the main stage.

Wednesday, August 6
Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) was destined to write, journaling from a young age. Profoundly impacted by the Civil War, Alcott served as a hospital nurse in Washington, D.C. until she contracted typhoid fever. Her life experiences formed the basis of Alcott’s signature work, Little Women (1868).

At the end of the war, Robert E. Lee (1807-1870) returned to Virginia, an ailing man but one determined to share the misfortunes of his people. He became president of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia, where he embraced education as the saving grace of the South from Reconstruction.

Thursday, August 7
Of mixed Scottish-American and Cherokee ancestry, Chief John Ross (1790-1866) seemed destined to be a member of the white elite of the Confederacy as owner of a Georgia slave plantation. However, Ross felt the pull of his Native American roots and became a champion of the Cherokee tribe’s traditionalists. He was elected chief and fought to keep the tribe united in the face of divisions impacted by the Civil War.

After his distinguished service in the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) was assigned by Congress to oversee the reentry of the former Confederate states into the Union. In 1868 he was elected president of the United States in a landslide victory, serving for two terms.

Friday, August 8
Born a slave, Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) escaped bondage and joined the American Abolition Society in 1841. Douglass emerged as an international “super-star” speaking out against slavery and for women’s rights.

A pioneer for women serving as wartime nurses, Clara Barton (1821-1912) established the first Missing-in-Action list, which she created and managed in the months following the Civil War. She later became the founder and 23-year president of the American Red Cross.

Saturday, August 9
Born poor to infamous parents, Victoria Woodhull (1838-1927) acquired wealth as a spiritual healer and opened the first female-owned stockbroking company on Wall Street. Later, Woodhull fulfilled a lifelong dream to work in the women’s movement advocating for gender equality. However, ultimately, her radical ideas alienated her from the movement.

A steamboat pilot prior to the Civil War, Mark Twain (1835-1910) joined his brother in the Nevada Territory and spent the war years avoiding military service, prospecting for gold and silver, and discovering his true calling in life as a writer of humorous pieces. Following the war, Twain built his reputation as a satirist poking fun at American society, politics, racism and love of money.

Other activities
Wednesday through Saturday evenings food for purchase and free musical entertainment will set the mood for thought-provoking encounters with these accomplished individuals from the past.

Chautauqua engages all ages. In addition to adult programming, there will be daytime sessions and hands-on activities for children. Young Chautauqua scholars will take the stage, presenting their living history portrayals as a culmination of months of independent research.

High Plains Chautauqua is also pleased to offer special events in connection with the main festival:

  •     The Abolitionists, a three-part film series July 14, 16, and 17, 6:00-8:00 p.m. at Centennial Park Library.


  •     Slavery by Another Name book discussion July 21, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. at Centennial Park Library.


  •     Young Chautauquans will present characters they have studied at a brown bag lunch July 24, 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. at the
        Greeley History Museum Community Room.


  •      A screening of the film 12 Years a Slave, followed by a facilitated discussion, Aug. 1, 6:30 p.m. at the Farr Branch Library.


  •     The Greeley Museums will host a Walking Tour: Civil War Veterans and 19th Century Greeley, Aug. 4, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.


All events are free and open to the public, thanks to the generosity of sponsors; individual donors; and many, many dedicated volunteers. For detailed program information, go to www.highplainschautauqua.org or call the Greeley Convention and Visitors Bureau at 970-352-3567.

High Plains Chautauqua is a free, five-day festival of history and theatre that is produced by Greeley community members in partnership with the Colorado Humanities.