Second annual humanities festival unites 25 of Northeast Ohio’s cultural institutions for artistic and educational events from March 15-April 24, including a presentation by Vicente Fox, the former president of Mexico.

The history and contemporary shape of immigration in Northeast Ohio—itself a rich fabric of diverse neighborhoods and cultural traditions—sets the stage for the second annual Cleveland Humanities Festival.

Most of the events—lectures, exhibits, theatrical performances, tours, and films—are free and open to the public, though many require registration at

“Exile, immigration, deportation, migration—the history of every nation includes challenges and opportunities caused by the movement of people. Nowhere is this more true than in our own country,” said Peter Knox, director of the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities at Case Western Reserve University, which is coordinating the festival.

“We hope people think about this topic in new and challenging ways, with the humanities as our gateway,” Knox added.

The opening keynote will be delivered on March 23 by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., host of the PBS program, Finding Your Roots, and history professor at Harvard University.

On April 3, Vicente Fox, former president of Mexico and a sharp critic of President Donald Trump, will discuss immigration reform in a free public address.

“I hope people gain a richer appreciation for how immigration shapes our communities,” said Knox, who holds the university’s Eric and Jane Nord Family Professorship. “That may be a deeper interest in their family background; a sense of sympathy for current refugee or migrant groups; or perhaps an energized attitude toward helping new members of our communities.”

The festival, which debuted last year, has become an annual fixture in Cleveland, with a new theme each year that engages the public by addressing meaningful issues and pressing concerns.

“The humanities help us understand who we are, what we’ve done and created along the way,” Knox said. “I understand that some will think immigration is a politically charged theme, but we’re not treating it that way, nor are we taking any side of a political question. We’re here to think more deeply about this unmistakable force.”


Highlighted events

  • March 24 – Author of A Polish Doctor in the Nazi Camps, Barbara Rylko-Bauer tells her mother’s story of World War II imprisonment to examine how echoes from the past are re-appearing.  
  • March 25New York Times columnist Anand Giridharadas will deliver his A Tale of Two Americas TED Talk.
  • March 27 – Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright Ayad Akhtar will discuss the Muslim experience in America.
  • March 27Who Should Enter the Golden Door: American Immigration Policy in Historical Perspective, a lecture by John Grabowski, the Krieger-Mueller Joint Professor in History at Case Western Reserve.
  • March 29 – Norwegian composer, and accordionist Frode Haltli teams up with Swedish nyckelharpa virtuoso Emilia Amper for an evening of Scandinavian folk-inspired music.
  • March 31– When Away Becomes Home: The Refugee Crisis and Opportunities for Welcome in Northeast Ohio (sponsored by Global Cleveland)
  • April 3 –Vicente Fox, former president of Mexico, will emphasize why America must establish sensible pathways for citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
  • April 5 – Immigrants in Ohio, Global Cleveland a nonprofit focused on population growth and regional economic development will share five things about newcomers in northeastern Ohio that are engines to our community’s revitalization and greatness

Events take place at Case Western Reserve and at many partner institutions in the region.


Facts and figures

There are 25 Northeast Ohio partners for the 2017 Cleveland Humanities Festival: Immigration.

They are: Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, Apollo’s Fire, Armenian Cultural Organization, the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities, Books@Work, Cleveland Archaeological Society, Cleveland Cinematheque, Cleveland History Center, Cleveland Institute of Music, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Cleveland Play House, Cuyahoga Community College, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Dittrick Museum of Medical History, Facing History and Ourselves, Global Cleveland, Kelvin Smith Library, Lake View Cemetery Foundation, Literary Cleveland, Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, Montessori High School at University Circle, Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Cleveland, Schubert Center for Child Studies, University Circle Inc., and Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University.

Funding is provided by Ohio Humanities and Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.

The festival is coordinated by the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities at Case Western Reserve University, which was founded in 1996 with a gift from Eric and Jane Nord. The center supports research and creative endeavors and hosts humanities events around the region.

In 2018, the Cleveland Humanities Festival will focus on health and health care. The inaugural event, in spring 2016, explored the impacts of war.

Case Western Reserve University is one of the country’s leading private research institutions. Located in Cleveland, we offer a unique combination of forward-thinking educational opportunities in an inspiring cultural setting. Our leading-edge faculty engage in teaching and research in a collaborative, hands-on environment. Our nationally recognized programs include arts and sciences, dental medicine, engineering, law, management, medicine, nursing and social work. About 5,100 undergraduate and 6,200 graduate students comprise our student body. Visit to see how Case Western Reserve thinks beyond the possible.