She enters from the back, wearing period costume, chatting in character voice to members of the audience as she makes her way toward the stage—bare except for an antique, quilt-draped rocking chair and a green plant. By the time she stands in front of us, she is, in our minds, Harriet Tubman, and we wait in silence for her message.
Describing herself as “nothin’ but a little ol’ bitty slave gal”, Harriet shares her early conviction that she had two rights—to be free—and to die.
Often called the “Moses” of her people, she returned many times to bring family members and others to “freedom land”. Though I have read about her and know her story, I still find myself holding my breath as she details her first perilous journey from the border state
Maryland to .
Finally, stepping down from the stage and out of character, Ms. Wright speaks to us—and especially to the children on the front row—about the importance of meeting life’s challenges with faith, hope, courage, and love for one’s fellow man. I find myself nodding and mouthing “amen” as if I were in church and hear verbal affirmations from others around me.
I leave smiling, and the afternoon’s experience continues to bless me as I come out of a difficult week.
Deborah L. Wright, now of
has been re-enacting “The Legacy of Harriet Tubman” since 1997. She is a native
of Hot Springs, AR and worked as a journalist in both
print and television. For her column, “Children Learn to Lose Colorblindness”,
she was awarded a first place Arkansas
Associated Press Managing Editors Award in 1999. Chicago
For more information, contact Ms. Wright at Wrightstuffmediaworks@yahoo.com
Experienced authors often advise fledgling writers to “write what you know”. A historical background can, of course, be thoroughly researched and the facts vetted, but facts are cold, lifeless entities. In order to understand a historical character or period, one must experience it. That’s where historical re-enactments become a valuable resource for writers. Just one brief hour, such as I spent, can be the springboard for insights and emotions that will bring your written words to life.
Check your state’s tourist bureau for information about such events. Watch your local newspaper. Go online to individual historic sites to scan their offerings.
Thanks to my good writing friend Donna for link to reenactor.Net (http://www.reenactor.net/forums/index.php?PHPSESSID=b805f6bea6dc70e29113b20a3adae01b&)
which may point you to opportunities in your own area.