Cleveland State University in Ohio has announced that it is launching a year-long observation of the arrival of the first Africans brought to the British Colonies in North America in 1619. Project 400: Our Lived Experience will present a series of events that examine slavery’s foundational significance to the historic and contemporary challenges faced by African-Americans, acknowledging the obstacles that have been overcome while highlighting those that still remain.
The project will commence with a two-day conference featuring national experts in the field who will discuss some of the leading issues impacting African Americans in the U.S. It will be keynoted by preeminent scholar and public intellectual Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The Project 400 conference will also include panel discussions and talks on the continued impact of segregation on society, health care disparities faced by communities of color, racial disparities within the criminal justice system, and the continued incidence of poverty in African American communities across the nation. The event will be held later this month in the university’s Wolstein Center.
Additional activities over the course of the year will include incorporating subject matter related to the commemoration into courses at CSU, an ongoing series of community dialogues on race relations in Northeast Ohio, and the development of collaborative research and community initiatives designed to eradicate the systemic racial inequities that exist locally and nationally.
Ronnie Dunn, interim chief diversity officer at Cleveland State University and chair of Project 400, stated that “Cleveland is an ideal location to initiate this type of discussion. Cleveland has been a focal point for a number of critical historical events in the African American experience, from its role in the Underground Railroad as a point of embarkment for escaped slaves stowing away aboard ships seeking uncontested freedom in Canada, to Carl Stokes’ election as the first Black mayor of a major U.S. city.”
Cleveland State University enrolls about 12,000 undergraduate students and 4,000 graduate students, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Department of Education. African Americans make up 15 percent of the undergraduate student body.
For more on Project 400, you may view the initiative’s website here.