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James Madison University is proud to partner with American Evolution as the Western Hub for the 2019 Commemoration. 2019 Marks the 400th anniversary of numerous important historical events for both Virginia and the United States that require our reflection. In 1619, our country experienced the arrival of the first recorded Africans to English North America, the recruitment of women to the colonies in significant numbers, first representative legislative assembly in the new world, an entrepreneurial and innovative spirit of the Virginia Colony, and the first official Thanksgiving.  

Learn more about the 2019 Commemoration on American Evolution's website.


Three main thematic focuses of the Commemoration are diversity, democracy, and opportunity. In keeping with these focuses, JMU is excited to partner with American Evolution to present public events throughout the year.

Upcoming Events

Ongoing - The 19th Amendment: A History of Women’s Rights at JMU: James Madison University Libraries presents this display about the Women's Suffrage movement at JMU from early suffragists to modern day. The exhibit is free and open to the public during library hours in the historic west wing of Carrier Library through Spring 2020. Check out the exhibit website and learn more about the display on the Special Collections blog.

Past Events

February 7, 2019 - Madison Vision Series Featuring John Charles Thomas: The Honorable John Charles Thomas discussed The Hope That Inspires Us. Watch the video of his speech.

March 11, 2019 - Cate Palczewski delivered her talk, “Parades, Pickets, and Prison in Woman Suffrage Activism, 1913-1919” as part of the 2019 Women’s History Month (March) & Sexual Assault Awareness Month (April), WGSS Films, Events & Speakers. The event was held in Festival Ballroom B from 7 to 9pm.

April 1, 2019 - Madison Vision Series Featuring Dr. Barbara Schaal: Dr. Schaal is the Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences and Professor of Biology at Washington University in St. Louis and vice president of the National Academy of Sciences. She spoke about the value of scientific research in our political system.  

April 4, 2019 - Government of the Leader, by the Leader, for the Leader: The Raging Ethics Crisis in Washington: Walter Shaub, now a senior adviser with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and CREW policy counsel Gabe Lezra discussed the ethics crisis in Washington and their urgent efforts to restore the ethical norms of government.

April 13-14, 2019 - Arc of Citizenship TourThe James Madison Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service-Learning at JMU organized an experiential learning tour in April 2019 of key sites related to slavery, the ongoing struggle for freedom, rights and social justice, and the contributions made by social movements engaged in these struggles to American democracy. The tour began at James Madison’s Montpelier and included stops in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County at sites related to the underground railroad, a lynching, civil rights, and urban renewal. The trip concluded with reflection and discussion about contemporary social justice issues.

April 18, 2019 - The Madison Cup Debate Tournament: The 2019 tournament discussed the topic: The United States federal government should significantly reduce executive authority over immigration. Student teams formed over 20 schools competed for $30,000 of prize money. The debates took place in Madison Union on JMU’s main campus. A final debate and awards ceremony was held in the Memorial Hall Auditorium at 6pm. While the jury deliberated during the final round, the floor was opened for audience comments and speeches. An award for the best floor speech was presented.  Local newspapers, politicians, and the general public were invited to all debates. Learn more about the tournament on the Madison Cup website.  

April 23, 2019 - TedEd 2019: TedEd is organized in partnership with the iExplore More Children's Museum and the JMU debate team each year to give local middle schoolers the chance to develop and deliver a TedTalk on a topic of their choosing. TedEd is proud to partner with JMU for the American Evolution 2019 Commemoration. The year 2019 marks the 400th anniversary of numerous important historical events for both Virginia and the United States that require our reflection. This American spirit; a spirit of survival, perseverance, and trying new things is what Ted Ed is all about! This event was held at 6pm at Court Square Theater in Downtown Harrisonburg.

June 27-28 - Virginia in the Vanguard: James Madison University will be hosting a convening of representatives of Virginian historic homes and preservation societies led by Former Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling to discuss the state of our democracy, the construction of our rights in the US Constitution, and the urgent call to effectively educate the public about our civil rights and society through the preservation of the past. Stewart Harris of Your Weekly Constitutional recorded an episode of the show with President Jon Alger while at ViV. You can listen to the episode here. 

September 12 – John Grisham to host Jon Meacham at ‘Writers Hour’ for the Madison Vision Series: Author John Grisham will interview Jon Meacham in front of a live audience to discuss American history, the writing process, and the role of writing in the state of our democracy. Event time:  6:00 – 7:30 pm, Location: Wilson Hall

September 17- Women Breaking Barriers: Toward a More Just and Equal Democracy for Constitution Day: 2019-2020 marks the 100th anniversary since the passage and ratification of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Although there have been many advancements since the passage of the 19th amendment, there is much to be done to improve the status of women, including among other things: ending sex-based discrimination, improving maternal mortality rates for black women, ensuring equal pay for equal work, increasing protections for the LGBTQ+ community, and addressing challenges faced by veterans and those who live in poverty. Join us for a discussion with Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy (D, HD2) about what we can do to achieve a more fully representative and equal democracy and society. Event time: 5:30 - 6:30pm, Location: Festival Ballroom A

September 27-28 - Furious Flower 25th Anniversary Celebration: The Furious Flower Poetry Center of James Madison University will celebrate 25 years of supporting, promoting and preserving Black poetry. As the first academic center devoted solely to African American poetry, Furious Flower has grown to become a nationally recognized organization dedicated to ensuring the visibility, inclusion and critical consideration of Black poets. On Friday September 27th at 7pm, join the center for a Benefit Gala featuring honorary hosts Rita Dove, Nikki Giovanni, A. Van Jordan, Marilyn Nelson, Gregory Pardlo, Sonia Sanchez and Tracy K. Smith for a night 25 years in the making! On Saturday, September 28th the 25th Anniversary Celebration will take place all day beginning at 9am at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. Reminiscent of the decade-defining conferences that have been Furious Flower’s hallmark, this day-long event will invite attendees to enjoy poetry readings by an array of renowned poets, an afternoon panel in the museum's Oprah Winfrey Theater, and interactive workshops on the practice of writing poetry. Learn more on the Furious Flower website.

November 4 – The Madison Vision Series Featuring Rosemarie Zagarri Event time:  6:00 – 7:30 pm, Location: Wilson Hall. Rosemarie Zagarri, an early American scholar and professor of history at George Mason University, presented “Petticoat Politicians: How Women Won and Lost the Vote in Early America” on Nov. 4 in Wilson Hall. The Madison Vision Series lecture was held in conjunction with the JMU history department’s “Democracy in Peril?” forum.

November 6- December 15- New Virginians Exhibit in Carrier and Rose Library: JMU Libraries is hosting the New Virginians exhibition, which features video-recorded conversations with immigrants and refugees from more than 30 countries and explores themes such as opportunity, family, service, faith, and gratitude. New Virginians is a Legacy Project of the 2019 Commemoration in partnership with the Library of Virginia and Virginia Humanities. On display now in the main lobby of Carrier Library (will be on display in Rose Library in December).

December 5th- Kizuri Chajiuza: The Fabric of an Afro-Centred UniversityAfrican, African American, and Diaspora Studies African Literatures and Cultures Workshop Featuring Dr. Gaidi Faraj. Dr. Gaidi Faraj is Dean of Faculty & Academic Affairs at the African Leadership University in Rwanda. He has over 10 years of senior level experience of managing large scale projects and navigating regulatory frameworks in Tanzania and broader East Africa, and is currently a research fellow at Harvard University. 

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