On Thursday evening, 10 April, beginning at 6 PM with a reception, the AHI will continue to water the seed of educational reform by holding a great celebration and fundraiser at the Turning Stone Casino & Resort in Vernon, New York, a few miles from the Hamilton College campus. The evening’s event, which will include a sumptuous feast, will honor special guests and steadfast supporters of the AHI. Its founders—Douglas Ambrose, James Bradfield, and Robert Paquette—will speak briefly on the past, present, and future of the AHI with special attention to future initiatives.

The founders of the AHI have designed three years of programming centered on annual themes. For 2007-2008, the theme is the meaning of freedom. John Stauffer, Professor English and American Literature and Language at Harvard University and a prize-winning author, will provide a keynote address on “Gerrit Smith and the Ambiguities of Social Reform.” Smith, arguably Hamilton College’s most influential and famous alumnus, graduated in 1818, valedictorian of his class. Converted to the cause of abolitionism in the 1830s, he founded the Liberty Party, served in Congress, funded John Brown’s attack on Harper’s Ferry, and emerged as perhaps the foremost philanthropist in the transatlantic world during the antebellum period.

Professor Stauffer’s keynote address will inaugurate an annual lecture series by the AHI, named in honor of Carl B. Menges, another distinguished graduate of Hamilton College.

Professor Stauffer will follow his talk by joining with Douglas Ambrose on Friday and Saturday to lead an innovative colloquium: “Liberty and Slavery: The Civil War between Gerrit Smith and George Fitzhugh.” The AHI’s colloquium, which should bring national media attention, is funded by a generous grant from the Watson-Brown Foundation, the preeminent foundation for the study of southern history and culture in the United States. The colloquium will assemble fifteen persons from different walks of life with different talents who have expertise relevant to the subject at hand. Participants will include a judge, an award-winning high school teacher, a museum curator as well as several of the most influential historians of our time. The colloquium will mark a rare public appearance by prize-winning historian Eugene D. Genovese, called by Atlantic Monthly America’s “greatest living historian.”

During six sessions (three Friday and three Saturday) of 1 hour and 45 minutes each, the colloquium attendants will intensively discuss a set of prescribed readings that will feature the unpublished correspondence between Smith and George Fitzhugh, one of the most brilliant and original proslavery apologists. Each session will focus on a major theme in the correspondence: the nature of Man, Christianity and slavery, the meaning of freedom, property and property in Man, capitalism and its alternatives, and race and slavery. Smith and Fitzhugh, as it turns out, were related by marriage, and their civil, curious, and penetrating letters not only speak to the civilizational struggle between North and South that led to the Civil War but to the meaning of freedom and fundamental questions about the human condition.

Professor Stauffer of Harvard, Professor Pete Banner-Haley of Colgate, and AHI co-founder Douglas Ambrose of Hamilton College will bring undergraduate classes (about seventy students) to the colloquium. Each class will enter the colloquium having read the prescribed readings and bearing a written assignment related to them. At the end of each of the six sessions, the undergraduates will ask questions of the scholars. Prizes will be awarded to the student in each class who writes the best paper. Even the seating arrangements will be innovative. The fifteen conferees will sit at a horseshoe-like table facing the students who will be seated at several rows of tables. The last half hour of each session will be devoted to exchanges between the conferees and the students. With the benefit of this rigorous interaction and debate, Professors Stauffer and Ambrose will edit and publish the remarkable correspondence of Gerrit Smith and George Fitzhugh.

Turning Stone boasts the finest accommodations in upstate New York. If you are interested in supporting the AHI, attending this event, or both please contact us through this website or email ahi@theahi.org. We welcome your interest.