Presentation 1 - Black Hawk’s View of Illinois History

Imagine sitting around a campfire with Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kiuk-kiuk, Black Hawk, listening to the stories of creation and the legends of his grandfathers. Storyteller and historian Brian “Fox” Ellis begins the program with his family’s connection to the Trail of Tears and the forced removal of the Cherokee Nation from their ancestral homeland. Using this personal history and a deep knowledge of Native American history this intimate story builds a bridge, bringing the audience on a journey back into those dark days of American History with both humor and real insight, drawing strength from the resilience of the people. The audience is then lead down the path through time to an encounter with Black Hawk’s Band on the eve of the battle. Two-thirds of the show is drawn directly from Black Hawk’s Autobiography. Weaving true history with folklore to create a tapestry of symbolic language he draws the audience into the world view of this respected leader of his people.

There are traditional chants and drumming songs, including a chance for the audience to participate in a few social dances, celebrate the First Nations of Illinois, and see the world through Native eyes.

Program Topics

  • History
  • Native American
  • Illinois

Book this presentation by first scheduling a date with Brian via email or phone at 309.696.1017, then completing the Road Scholars Host Organization application.


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Presentation 2 - Walt Whitman’s Democratic Vistas

Walt Whitman, better than most, articulated a vision of what America is and what it might yet become. He sought to capture the many distinct voices that make up the chorus of this country, the singing stevedores working in the harbors, the calls of teamsters hauling goods with their horses, the many voices of immigrants in his beloved Bronx, the enslaved singing in the cotton fields, the cadences of politicians and preachers. This new program is a hybrid blending of Walt’s poetry, his essays on American Democracy, and a carefully curated conversation with the audience to help them better articulate their vision for a better America. We seek to move consciously from talk to tasks lists, dreams to democratic and dynamic actions.

After the Civil War, when our Nation was highly divided along political and geographic lines, Walt offered both a diagnosis of our difficulties and a vision of unity through dialogue and the arts. “When America does what was promised, When each part is peopled with free people…When through these states walk a hundred million superb persons… Then to me ripeness and conclusion.”

Program Topics

  • Poetry
  • History
  • Democracy

Book this presentation by first scheduling a date with Brian via email or phone at 309.696.1017, then completing the Road Scholars Host Organization application.


Back to the 2021 – 2022 Road Scholar Roster

About Road Scholar Brian “Fox” Ellis


Brian “Fox” Ellis
, more than a fan of Whitman, spent a week in New York and Brooklyn, walking in Whitman’s footsteps reciting Whitman to anyone who would listen, often reading poems in the places they were written. He is also of Cherokee descent and has performed at Powwows and native gatherings across the country. Fox has created more than a dozen one man shows. He is an internationally renowned storyteller, author and naturalist. Fox is a frequent speaker on the modern Chautauqua circuit. Fox is also a museum consultant who has worked with The Field Museum and The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. Fox is the author of more than twenty books including the critically acclaimed Learning From the Land: Teaching Ecology Through Stories and Activities, (Libraries Unlimited, 1997/2011), and a series of biographies based on his one-man shows, History in Person (Fox Tales International 2020).

Learn More and Follow Brian

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About Illinois Humanities Road Scholars Speakers Bureau

Since 1997, our Road Scholars Speakers Bureau has invited Illinois writers, storytellers, historians, folklorists, musicians, and living history actors, among others, to share their expertise and enthusiasm with people throughout our state. It also supports local nonprofit organizations – including libraries, museums, arts councils, historical societies, civic groups, and many others – in presenting free-admission cultural programs of high quality to their communities for a modest application fee, which can be waived if your organization is experiencing financial hardship.

Our Road Scholars Speakers Bureau roster features speakers hailing from many different communities across Illinois who offer presentations on topics in history, archaeology, philosophy, literature, theater, film, music, politics, and other subjects that are thought-provoking and engaging. The breadth of these offerings reflects our conviction that the humanities can help us to examine the world in all its varied shades and discover in it the remarkable, the strange, the fantastic, the tragic, the humorous, and the beautiful.

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