Fayetteville’s Charles Chesnutt: African American Author in the Jim Crow Era on February 25, 2021
As part of the Global Studies Lecture Series at Fayetteville State University (FSU), the Lafayette Society is hosting an online presentation on Charles W. Chesnutt (1858-1932), our nation’s first successful African American author, on Thursday February 25 from 7pm-8pm. His novels deal with issues of racial identity, color and class prejudice, and the often-violent suppression of the rights and personal freedoms of African Americans. Chesnutt grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina, during Reconstruction and his experiences there provided material for the controversial novels and short stories he wrote after he moved to Cleveland, Ohio.
The Lafayette Society started an endowment at FSU for “the Study of the Age of Revolutions, Emancipation, and Civil Rights” in 2018. Proceeds from the endowment will be used for continued educational programming, speaker fees, student grants, and faculty support. Until the endowment is fully funded, the Lafayette Society itself has been sponsoring a speaker every year in February. To learn how you can help support the Lafayette Endowment at FSU, go to the “Outreach” tab on this website.
Dr. Rob Taber will moderate the panel discussion on February 25. He is a history professor at FSU and co-advisor of the Black History Scholars Association. Joining him will be four experts on Chesnutt – Dr. Blanche Curry, Joshua James, Dr. Maria Orban, and Nicholle Young. They will discuss Chesnutt’s racial themes, his connections to Fayetteville and literary merit, and recent research findings. Watch on Zoom at http://bit.ly/ChesnuttLafayette.
Lafayette Birthday Celebration 2020
Lafayette persevered, and so did we!
The Lafayette Society and the City of Fayetteville, North Carolina, once again celebrated the birth of our namesake, the Marquis de Lafayette – but in an appropriate, CDC-compliant manner! Many of our activities were cancelled, some were virtual, and several took place as usual but with COVID-safe precautions.
2020 has been a complicated, fractious, tumultuous year thanks to the pandemic and economic, climatologic, and social/political upheavals. When Lafayette returned to visit America as The Nation’s Guest in 1824, the political landscape was also very divisive –the Presidential election that year had to be decided in the House of Representatives! The visit by this last surviving Major General of the Revolutionary War served as an antidote to this county’s political divide. He praised us for our industry, economic growth, and democratic institutions, which he saw as the fruits of our struggle for freedom from Great Britain. He helped us see that this freedom was achieved because of a unity of spirit and effort. In turn, America admired without reservation this noble Frenchman who had come to our aid fifty years before and who had devoted his entire life to freedom and human rights.
In that spirit, we chose the mature Lafayette for our poster this year, at the age when he visited America in 1824-25. This is the image of a leader who showed respect for others and treated all with fairness, surely an important message for our troubled times. (The life-sized portrait by Ary Scheffer hangs in the House of Representatives, on the viewer’s right of the Speaker’s podium. George Washington’s portrait, of course, is on the left).
and no Artifacts
In the past, the Lafayette Birthday Celebration has kicked off with an event at Methodist University called “Arias and Artifacts.” This event typically included an exhibit from the Lafayette Collection at Davis Memorial Library followed by a short concert of French music performed by professional musicians and vocalists.
This year, the “Artifacts” portion was cancelled, but “Arias” took place in a virtual format on September 3 on Hay Street Live, an Arts Council program streamed on YouTube and Facebook. Featured performers included Dr. Gail Morfesis, opera singer Alina Cherkasova, the woodwind ensemble Bella Venti, and the Thiriot Family. Over 400 people logged in to watch the show on Facebook, shattering all previous virtual attendance records for Hay Street Live!
The Arts Council incorporates live “commercial breaks” and interviews with special guests into Hay Street Live. General Lafayette probably didn’t have the pleasure of enjoying a “Highsmith mimosa” in 1825 but he certainly enjoyed one in 2020! The mimosas have become a tradition at the Lafayette Society’s annual meeting and luncheon social held on the first Sunday of March.
Lecture at FTCC
On Thursday, September 10, Fayetteville Technical Community College presented “A Sanctuary for the Rights of Mankind: Lafayette and Human Rights” by Diane Shaw, College Archivist and Special Collections Curator at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania for 30 years. Ms. Shaw, a recognized authority on the life and times of Lafayette, has written many articles about his opposition to slavery and support of equal rights for all.
Ms. Shaw gave the audience an in-depth look at Lafayette’s embrace of the antislavery movement, a passion that grew out of his experiences in the American Revolution and continued throughout his life. She also spoke of his efforts preceding the French Revolution to restore civil rights to French Protestants and Jews, his friendship for Native Americans, his support for women writers and reformers, and his opposition to solitary confinement and the death penalty.
Although in-person attendance was limited by state guidelines, Ms. Shaw’s talk was streamed live on the FTCC You tube channel. Also, the audio was streamed live on radio station WIDU, whose audience is largely African-American. You can watch the lecture on FTCC’s YouTube page.
The Lafayette Trail Tour
The popular Lafayette Trail bus/walking tour led by city historian and FILI member Bruce Daws was cancelled this year because of COVID. As an alternative, the Lafayette Society produced a series of short videos featuring sites that Lafayette visited in March of 1825. Lafayette interpreter Stan Seay visited the grave of Revolutionary War patriot Gabriel DuBrutz. DuBrutz was a member of the French fleet that prevented the escape of British General Lord Cornwallis at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781. He returned to America later and settled in Fayetteville, where he married and became a very successful merchant and land-owner. He also cultivated grapes for Bordeaux wine with seeds from the family vineyard in France. Our Lafayette also visited Liberty Point, where fifty-five Cumberland County patriots signed the Liberty Point Resolves on June 20, 1775, a full year before the Declaration of Independence.
Links to Lafayette’s complete trail adventures are below!