With planning for America250 underway, get to know the people behind the scenes with our spotlight series. We’ll be asking Commissioners and staff about their passions, plans and hopes for the future.
Meet Director of State Partnerships Kelsey Millay, a Halloween enthusiast who’s looking to get all states and territories involved in America’s 250th in 2026.
A250: If you could have dinner with any person from U.S. history, dead or alive, who would it be? Why? What would you ask?
I didn’t know much about Ida B. Wells before I started working at the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument in 2015. Part of the tour in the museum focuses on how she battled racial segregation during the March 3, 1913, Suffrage Parade in Washington, D.C., by refusing to march in the back of the procession, instead taking her rightful place with the Illinois delegation. I read Mia Bays’ biography of Wells, To Tell the Truth Freely, and learned that Wells’ investigative journalism was critical to building the anti-lynching movement in the U.S., and that she knowingly put herself in danger through this work to fight for what was right.
I would love to have dinner with her and ask about what her hopes were for our country when she was alive, how far she thinks we’ve come today, and what she thinks we still need to accomplish. Amplifying the stories of important but lesser-known historic figures is a great opportunity that we have as a country during the America250 commemoration.
A250: What is the strongest national pride you’ve ever felt?
It was an honor to work for the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission and to help lead the nationwide planning for the commemoration of 100 years of the 19th Amendment. I was proud to see the country come together to honor that moment on August 26, 2020, and I’m thrilled to be working toward our country’s greatest milestone yet with America250.
A250: What is a unique viewpoint from your home state that you’re excited to bring to this nationwide project?
I live in Charlottesville, Virginia, just 15 minutes down the road from Monticello. Living near the historic home of one of the primary authors of the Declaration of Independence, where so many ideas about freedom and democracy that our nation was built on were formulated but also contradicted by the presence of slavery, provides a lot of inspiration and food for thought while looking ahead to 2026.
A250: Describe your job in 3-5 words.
Bringing states and territories together.
A250: What are you currently working on that can be shared with us?
At this point, we’re just five years out from the big anniversary date, July 4, 2026, and we want to help states and territories set up their operations for planning for this important milestone and amplifying their unique history and culture. We’re encouraging states and territories to form an official America250 commission, entity or organization, which will lead their planning for the commemoration, through legislation or executive order. We’re aiming to have all 56 state/territorial commissions (including Washington, D.C.) formed by 2023.
As the national organizing entity for the commemoration, we will also serve as a convener for all the official America250 organizations across the country.
A250: What’s something your coworkers don’t know about you?
I love Halloween and typically start celebrating in September.
A250: Give us three fun facts about yourself.
I love to dance. I have a dog named Camilla who has enormous ears. And working for America250 since January 2021, I have already felt inspired by the organization’s emphasis on service and volunteering. It has motivated me to look for new ways to get involved and give back to my community, and I hope that we can spark a renewed and rejuvenated commitment to service all across the country.
To learn more about the America250 team, visit our about page and follow us on social media for the latest news and updates.