Uplifting Stories Highlight Black History Weekend at Old Sturbridge Village June 21-22

Monday, June 9, 2014

The legacy of “Juneteenth”
Stories of an "Amistad" captive and a slave-turned-dressmaker
African oral traditions – storytelling and folklore
Abolitionists Abby Kelly Foster and William Lloyd Garrison
History of the first black public school

(STURBRIDGE, Mass.) – June 9, 2014: Uplifting stories from African-American history will be presented June 21-22 during Black History Weekend at Old Sturbridge Village, which is held in June to commemorate historical “Juneteenth” celebrations marking the end of slavery after the Civil War. Storyteller Tammy Denease will portray Amistad slave captive Sarah Margru, who became America's first African woman to graduate from an American college, on Saturday and Elizabeth Keckly, a former slave who became a dressmaker and confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln, on Sunday. Stories and folklore from the African oral tradition will be performed by Andre Keitt in Keys to the Keepers, and visitors can meet historians portraying Abolitionists Abigail Kelley Foster and William Lloyd Garrison. On Saturday, educators from Boston’s Museum of African American History will present a live historic interpretation of school teacher Susan Paul, who taught in the country’s first black public school built in Boston in 1835. Visit www.osv.org to view a full schedule. Details: 800-SEE-1830; www.osv.org

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 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 dressmaker 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.  

Susan Paul and the Abiel Smith School

The Museum of African American History’s Abiel Smith School was built in Boston in 1835 as the first building erected in the country for the sole purpose of housing a black public school.  Abolitionist Susan Paul, the daughter of the Reverend Thomas Paul, the first minister at the African Meeting House, and Catherine Paul, an educator, was a teacher at the Smith School. This interactive workshop will be at Old Sturbridge Village on Saturday and will present an opportunity to experience what it was like to go to school in 1835-1855 through a live historic interpretation of Susan Paul teaching participants how students learned to read, spell, cipher, and recite in the 1800s. 

Abby Kelley Foster

Abby Kelley Foster (1811-1887), abolitionist and advocate for women’s rights, was born near Amherst, Massachusetts, and spent her childhood in the countryside around Worcester. A crusader for the abolition of slavery and for women's suffrage, Foster lectured throughout the country, forcefully promoting her causes, and was one of the first women to deliver speeches before sexually mixed audiences. She married a radical abolitionist, Stephen S. Foster, and after the birth of their daughter, they bought and settled on a farm in Worcester, continuing their activities on behalf of slaves and women. She helped plan the first National Woman’s Rights Convention in 1850.  Before her death, she famously refused to pay property taxes, because as a woman, she was not allowed to vote. Her home, still standing on Mower Street in Worcester, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1973.

William Lloyd Garrison

Massachusetts-born William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879) helped lead the abolitionist campaign against slavery in the United States. Editor of the antislavery journal The Liberator, which he founded in 1831, Garrison became the voice of the abolitionist movement in America before the Civil War.  He believed moral persuasion was the means to end slavery – if he could show people that slavery was immoral, they would join the movement to end it. Garrison published The Liberator for 35 years and lived to see his cause justified – Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil War, and the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1865, banning slavery forever.

Old Sturbridge Village celebrates New England life in the 1830s and is one of the largest living history museums in the country.  The museum is open daily 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. seven days a week.  OSV offers free parking and a free return visit within 10 days. Admission: $24; seniors $22; children 3-17, $8; children 2 and under, free. For information: www.osv.org or call 800-733-1830.

# # #            


Laura Chilson: lchilson@osv.org; 508-347-0294
Ann Lindblad: annlindblad@comcast.net; 508-886-2689

Press Releases
The Old Sturbridge Village printer works the printing press.