News & Announcements

Project 400 Will Chronicle African American Experience

Commemorates the 400th anniversary of Africans being brought to North America

Cleveland State University and multiple community partners will inaugurate 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 event will be held Friday September 27 and Saturday September 28 at CSU’s Wolstein Center.

“Cleveland is an ideal location to initiate this type of discussion,” notes Ronnie Dunn, interim chief diversity officer at Cleveland State University and chair of the Project. “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 US city, to the Hough and Glenville riots and the police shooting of 12-year old, Tamir Rice. In addition, the challenges currently faced by communities of color here and the opportunities for transformative change, reflect those found across the nation.”

An Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, and cultural critic, Dr. Gates has authored or co-authored twenty-one books and created fifteen documentary films on the African American experience. This includes Finding Your Roots, his groundbreaking genealogy series now in its third season on PBS. He currently serves as the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

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. Additional speakers will include: Kwame Ajamu, chairman of the board of the Witness to Innocence Project; Dr. Woodrow Whitlow, former director of the NASA Glenn Research Center; Dr. Charles Modlin, director of the Minority Men's Health Center at the Cleveland Clinic and Tracy Najera, executive director of the Children's Defense Fund-Ohio.

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. Additional organizations participating in the effort include, Case Western Reserve University, Metro Health Medical Center, the YWCA of Greater Cleveland, First Year Cleveland, the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, Candid and the Urban League of Cleveland.

To learn more about Project 400 visit

Click here to register for the conference.