Presentation 1 - 1619: The Journey of a People, The Production

August 20th, 1619, 20 enslaved Africans arrived in Jamestown, VA. The 400- year journey that followed would change a nation and the world. 1619: The Journey of a People is a dynamic theatrical and lecture experience featuring Playwright, Professor, and Performer Ted Williams III.

Taken from the 2 hour musical production, 1619: The Journey of a People, this one-man show packs generations of history into an approximately 1 hour stage production. From the beginning of American slavery to the  Reconstruction, the Great Migration, the Civil Rights Era, and the modern movements for justice, Williams uses history to explain America’s current reality.

1619: The Journey of a People commemorates the struggles, recognizes the heroes, and critically analyzes the American journey towards freedom and  equality.  Since the world premiere in August of 2019, the production has been performed over a dozen times throughout Chicago and at various locations including Elmhurst College, Wheaton College, and Hampton University. It has been featured in the Chicago Defender, Daily Herald, WCIU’s The Jam, V103’s Chicago Speaks with Darryl Dennard, WVON’s Real Talk Real People, and on Fox32 Chicago. 1619: The Journey of a People, which was funded by the Illinois Arts Council and nominated for the 2020 August Wilson Award for Best Writing of Musical by the Black Theater Alliance Awards.

The performance will run for 60-75 minutes and include live performance pieces, video clips, an audience trivia game, lecture, and an opportunity for Q+A.

Performance Pieces:

  • Captured: The Transatlantic Slave Trade
  • Slave for life: Early Court Cases
  • Roots: Alex Haley
  • I Thought We Were Free: The Reconstruction Era
  • Fredrick Douglass 4th of July speech: US Patriotism
  • Booker T. or WEB: Strategies for Progress
  • Run to the North: The Great Migration
  • Tired of Wearing 2 Faces: Racial Identity and Middle Class Assimilation
  • I’m Not Black: The One Drop Rule and Racial Classification
  • After the Dream: Dr. King’s Legacy and 2020 America
  • Steal Away: Faith and Social Justice

Program Topics

  • History
  • U.S. Slavery
  • Civil Rights

Book this presentation by first scheduling a date with Ted via email or phone at 312.602.9642, then completing the Road Scholars Host Organization application.


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Presentation 2 - Change Our Language, Change Our Politics

The current American political climate is notoriously full of acrimony and vitriol. Research suggests that the partisan division in the US electorate is widening as Americans increasingly segregate by class, geography, and ideology.

  • Are we hopelessly destined for a future of political combat in which Americans  are unable to even hear the other side?
  • What if bringing us a little closer was as simple as changing the political language we use?

From issues of race to the role of government, language plays a significant role in fueling political division. For the sake of simplicity and expediency, we often reduce controversial conversations to sound bites, hashtags, and the language of marketing campaigns. Terms like conservative and liberal, black and white, pro-choice and pro-life, gun control, and illegal immigrant all are loaded with a set of definitions and often erroneous assumptions that drive intense emotion. For example, the word “black”, by definition, means evil, and wicked. The word “white”, by definition, means pure and innocent. When these terms are ascribed to human beings, why would they not evoke feelings about character, superiority, or the perceived threat or guilt of groups of people? Here are a few questions to be considered…

  • If a person is pro-gun control, are they against the second amendment?
  • If someone is pro-choice are they necessarily for abortion?
  • Does being for the “dreamers” mean that one is against national borders
  • What does support for the #blacklivesmatter movement say about their position towards other ethnic groups?
  • Are people rigidly and consistently either conservative or liberal?

This presentation is designed to change the way we discuss politics. As former candidate for public office and someone who has spent a career having difficult conversations around the topics of religion and politics, Ted has had a plethora of experiences navigating these dangerous waters.

Program Topics

  • Language
  • Politics
  • Civic Engagement

Book this presentation by first scheduling a date with Ted via email or phone at 312.602.9642, then completing the Road Scholars Host Organization application.


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About Road Scholar Ted Williams III

Ted Williams III is a speaker, performing artist, and college educator. A graduate of the University of Chicago and Rutgers University, and a current faculty member at the City Colleges of Chicago, he has successfully inspired countless inner-city students to pursue higher education. He is the former host of WYCC-PBS television’s The Professors weekly talk show and has served as an expert guest providing political commentary for BET-TV, WCIU-TV, WGN-TV, NBC-TV, Upfront with Jesse Jackson, PRI’s Smiley and West, and a host of online periodicals. He has appeared in commercials for companies including McDonald’s, Empire Carpet, Six Flags, US Waterproofing, Cheerios, and Subway. He is the author of the productions TORN the Musical and 1619: The Journey of a People, which was funded by the Illinois Arts Council and nominated for the 2020 August Wilson Award for Best Writing of Musical by the Black Theater Alliance Awards. He is also the author of the book The Way Out: Christianity, Politics, and the Future of the African American Community, and a contributor to the Third World Press text, Not Our President.

Ted is a former candidate for the Chicago City Council and is an expert at reaching audiences with a dynamic message of civic engagement, personal transformation, and hope.

Learn More and Follow Ted

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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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