Delaware Historical Society Celebrates Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman 2

As part of its Untapped History Series, on Friday, March 24, the Delaware Historical Society presented Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroada one-woman show featuring well-known re-enactor Kathryn Harris, who is the President of the Abraham Lincoln Association and former Library Services Director at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois. (Side note: Prior to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library opening in 2004, the Illinois State Historical Library was located underneath the Old State Capitol.)

Delaware Arts Info sat down for a chat with Ms. Harris to discover more about her performance. Check out our interview below…

*Did you write this piece and what moved you to create it? Or, what is the work’s origin and how did you come to find it?
Yes, I wrote the piece. I wrote it around the late 1990’s for presentation to an Illinois 5th Grade class as part of their study of the Antebellum and Civil War era. I had “…made another historical woman come alive” for our local Historical Society Cemetery Walk, and the President of the Society, who was also involved with the 5th Grade program, asked if I would make Harriet come alive, as the students wanted to know more about her. Since I was in the Library, I was extraordinarily positioned to have access to resources, including Harriet’s 1869 biography by Sarah H. Bradford.

*What drew you to performance of this work? What is your favorite part of the performance?
I was drawn to create this piece in response to the request from my friend and colleague. (She asked me to develop and deliver the presentation as a part of the 5th Grade program.) My favorite part is the Q&A, where I answer in first person narrative, as Harriet. I never know what I’ll be asked, so each performance is different.

*Do you have any special inspiration or influence that you tap into in preparation for this piece?
I have admired Harriet Tubman since I was in elementary school, when I read her biography. She was a truly remarkable woman. When given the opportunity, I was eager to develop this presentation. Originally after my monologue, I did not answer questions in first-person, but with the help and encouragement of a theater friend, I grew more comfortable answering questions in that scenario. Of course, all of this was because of my continual reading and research on Harriet.

*Can you talk about Harriet Tubman’s connections here in Delaware?
The most significant story that I know about Harriet Tubman’s Delaware connections is her relationship with Thomas Garrett and their subsequent relationship with William Still of Philadelphia. Garrett was a staunch and radical abolitionist who was thoroughly committed to the abolition of slavery. He risked his life and livelihood in the fight for abolition, and opened his home as a safehouse for hundreds of fugitives that traveled with Harriet.

*What do you feel is the greatest message or experience that you’d like audiences to take with them after seeing your performance?
After my performance, I hope the audience will not only learn something new about Harriet Tubman, but also that they will respect her commitment to a supremely righteous cause. She valiantly showed that she “…put her feet were her belief was.” With a strong faith and trust in God, she tirelessly worked for the greatest possession: LIBERTY and FREEDOM. She was determined to have them or death โ€” that was the only alternative in her view. What a woman! If only everyone today could have the courage of conviction to act for a cause in which they so fiercely believe โ€” how much different would our world be? Sitting on the sidelines does not bring change or make our society better!


This post appears courtesy of Delaware Arts INfo Blog