Inspiring Stories Highlight Black History Weekend at Old Sturbridge Village Feb. 23-24

Monday, February 4, 2013

Civil War reenactors from the famous Massachusetts 54th Regiment;

The story of “Amistad" captive Sarah Margru;

Former slave turned couturier Elizabeth Keckly

African oral tradition – storytelling and folklore

(STURBRIDGE, MA) - Feb. 4, 2013: Some of the most inspiring stories from African-American history will be celebrated during Black History Weekend at Old Sturbridge Village Feb. 23-24, including the Civil War bravery of the all-Black Massachusetts 54th Regiment. Storyteller Tammy Denease will portray Amistad slave captive Sarah Margru, who became America's first African college graduate, and Elizabeth Keckly, a former slave who became a couturier and confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln. Stories and folklore from the African oral tradition will be performed by Andre Keitt in Keys to the Keepers, and Kelvin Todd will tell the story of Guy Scott, a 19th-century African American mine foreman in Sturbridge. OSV visitors can learn about the Abolitionist movement, and hands-on crafts and games with an African-American theme will be offered all weekend. Details: 800-SEE-1830;

The Massachusetts 54th Regiment

The Massachusetts 54th Regiment, whose bravery was recounted in the 1989 Hollywood movie Glory, (parts of which were filmed at Old Sturbridge Village) was the first all-Black volunteer military unit in the country. Commissioned in 1863 and commanded by white officer Robert Gould Shaw (portrayed by Matthew Broderick in the movie), the 54th distinguished itself in battle at Fort Wagner, South Carolina, which guarded the Port of Charleston. Colonel Shaw and 281 soldiers were killed storming the fort. Today, members of the Boston-based 54th keep the history of the 54th alive through battle reenactments and school appearances.

Sarah Margru

"Margru" was one of four children aboard the slave ship Amistad sailing to Cuba in 1839. Under the leadership of Cinque, the slave captives seized control of the schooner, intending to sail it back to Africa. After 63 days at sea, the ship was captured off Long Island Sound and towed to New London, Connecticut. Former President John Quincy Adams successfully defended the slave captives, enabling them to return home to what is now Sierra Leone. "Margru" returned to the U.S., took the name Sarah Kinson and graduated from Oberlin College in 1849, becoming the first African to graduate from an American college.

Elizabeth Keckly

Born into slavery in 1819, Elizabeth Keckly became a skilled seamstress, earning enough from wealthy clients to purchase her freedom and that of her son. She went on to become a couturier in Washington, D.C., designing fashions for such clients as Mrs. Robert E. Lee, Mrs. Jefferson Davis, and First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, to whom she became a trusted friend and confidante. Keckly often traveled with the First Lady, and witnessed first-hand many of the extraordinary events of the Lincoln presidency.

Keys to the Keepers

Performed by storyteller and folklorist Andre Keitt, this presentation tells the story of how American slaves and their descendants held onto their African culture through storytelling and folklore, and how the African oral tradition migrated from its place of inception to the shores of early America.

Guy Scott

Portrayed by Kelvin WilliamTodd, Guy Scott was a man of color who, with his family, lived and worked in "a sea of white faces" in early 19th-century Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Scott made his living as a farm laborer, eventually buying his own house and small farm. For many years he was also foreman of a graphite ("lead") mine in the south part of town, supervising a multi-racial workforce in a difficult and dangerous trade.

Old Sturbridge Village celebrates life in the 1830s, and is one of the country’s largest living history museums. Located just off the Massachusetts Turnpike and Routes I-84 and 20 in Sturbridge, Mass., the Village is open year-round, but hours vary seasonally. Winter hours are Wed. - Sun. 9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. (the Village is open on all Monday holidays); Admission is: $24 for adults; $22 for seniors; $8 for children ages 3-17; children 2 and under are admitted free. Each admission includes free parking and a free second-day visit within 10 days. Woo Card subscribers get 25% of adult daytime admission; college Woo cardholders receive 50% off adult daytime admission. For event details, visit or call 800-SEE-1830.

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Ann Lindblad
VP Communications
Old Sturbridge Village


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