Living History Birthday Party for Lakewood

Lakewood will come alive with history for five days in June when it hosts Ohio Chautauqua 2011 under a big tent in Lakewood Park. Thanks to the efforts of the Lakewood Historical Society, the city of Lakewood, the Beck Center for the Arts, Lakewood Chamber of Commerce and Lakewood City Schools, free programs will let adults and children learn more about the Civil War from June 22nd to the 26th. 

Ohio Chautauqua 2011 is in the tradition of lifelong learning behind the Chautauqua movement of the 1870s. The tent and programs visit five cities in Ohio over the course of the summer under the auspices of the Ohio Humanities Council. This year, Lakewood Park is the Northeast Ohio site for Ohio Chautauqua, which happens to coincide with Lakewood’s 100th anniversary as a city. 

Each evening under the tent, a scholar will take on the character of an individual who took part in the Civil War. This living history is especially suited to a family audience because each person, young or old, will find his or her own way to relate to the historical character who will be there “in person.” A different historical figure will give a presentation each evening, including Abraham Lincoln and Harriet Tubman, the African-American who was born a slave, but worked to lead many slaves to freedom under the name “Moses”. She was also a member of the Union Army as a nurse, cook, scout and spy, and – after the war – as a suffragette. 

Others pivotal to the Civil War are less well-known. Mary Boykin Chestnut will bring a Southern perspective. Her father was both a representative and senator before becoming governor of South Carolina. Mary’s husband James was also elected to the Senate. As tensions mounted, Mary’s husband helped draft the secession ordinance for South Carolina, served in the Confederate Congress, and was an aide and eventually a general of the Confederate Army. Mary’s diaries offer unique insights into the Civil War from the Confederate point of view. 

Another evening, the audience will hear from Mary Edwards Walker. In an age when bloomers were revolutionary, Mary attended medical school (the only woman in her class), and became a practicing physician. She was not allowed to join the Union Army, but served as an unpaid volunteer physician. Mary continued to work on women’s causes following the war. It is reported that Mary not only wore trousers and a man’s coat to her wedding, but kept her name.

Martin Delaney was a major in the Union Army and recruited all-black units to fight for the cause. He was the highest ranking black man in the Army. Martin had already distinguished himself before the war. He was co-editor with Frederick Douglass of the North Star, but left that post to study medicine at Harvard University.  He agitated for a separate nation for African-Americans, though he did not support Liberia. After the war, he was active in South Carolina, and served as a judge in Charleston. Eventually, he returned to Boston and practiced medicine before becoming a businessman.

Before each living history program during Ohio Chautauqua, students from Lakewood schools will provide Civil War-era musical entertainment. While the evening programs are the highlight of the Ohio Chautauqua experience, there will also be children’s programs each morning at the Beck Center and afternoon movies and adult lectures at the Lakewood Public Library.

The Historical Society is excited to offer these special learning opportunities free to Lakewood and Northeast Ohio. Visit for a complete schedule. You can also donate on the Lakewood Historical Society website to support this birthday party to celebrate Lakewood’s 100th year as a city.

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Volume 7, Issue 4, Posted 6:48 PM, 02.22.2011