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Trend Magazine Online™
Travel Review Fall 2023
National Black Theatre Festival Part II Page II
Winston-Salem, NC
#nbtf #sojournertruth

By Jay Whipple

Trend Magazine Online™

Edutainment At It's Best!cont'd.

National Black Theatre Festival 2022 Part II Winston-Salem NC Review Pic
Welcome to Part II, Page II of my exclusive 2022 National Black Theatre Festival (NBTF) review. As promised, I am now sharing with you my experience of the second half of the very historically important play Douglass/Sojourner at the Reynolda House Museum in the quaint city of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. This half of the performance was dedicated to Ms. Isabella Baumfree b.k.a. Sojourner Truth (1797 - 1883) and began at 9:15 PM after a brief 10-minute intermission after the conclusion of the soul-stirring rendition of Mr. Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey b.k.a. Frederick Douglass (1818 - 1895) played by New York actor Kyle Taylor. This set was very simple and included a rocking chair, and an end table with tea set, mirror, and book. It began with the entrance of an older version of Sojourner wearing a brown coat and dress, beige shawl, and white bonnet; and she was carrying a suitcase.

National Black Theatre Festival 2022 Part II Winston-Salem NC Review Pic!The performer established that she was returning from a trip to New York while addressing the audience and cracking jokes. She mentioned that she was actually born in New York in 1797 and quipped that Jefferson (Thomas; 3rd President, 1801 - 1809) and Adams (John; 2nd President, 1797 - 1801) were hypocrites National Black Theatre Festival 2022 Part II Winston-Salem NC Review Pic!for participating in the signing of the Declaration of Independence (1776) which admonished King George III for depriving them of their freedom all while owning or allowing the ownership of Slaves in this new country called America a.k.a. The United States. She then got into how she was owned by a Dutch American named Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh, Jr. (1729 - 1799), of Swartekill (present-day Rifton) in Ulster County (towards upstate) New York, and that she was not happy with her relatives being sold and pointed out that her father (James, wife Betsey Baumfree) was too old to be sold. Her native language was reportedly Dutch before she learned English, and she reportedly spoke with the former accent her entire life; much like most New Yorker's today.

National Black Theatre Festival 2022 Part II Winston-Salem NC Review Pic! The performer then broke off into a series of background experiences with Sojourner's subsequent masters starting with Mr. and Mrs. John Neely (circa 1806) who reportedly were very cruel and insulting to her via beatings and one incident that involved her hand (some recounts left, others right) being pushed into a pot of boiling water. Next, she brought up her third master Dutch Innkeeper/Tavern Owner Martinus Schryver of Ulster Park, NY, National Black Theatre Festival 2022 Part II Winston-Salem NC Review Pic!who she gave dignity to because she was his first Slave sold to him for reportedly $100 (today $2,505.66 [2023) by the Neely's. She was then sold to her fourth and final master; a prosperous farmer named John Dumont of West Park, NY, in circa 1811 for reportedly $200 (today $4,667.04 [2023]); who reportedly beat and sexually assaulted her along with his wife (Sally) in separate incidents. Sojourner bore him at least one child (James) before being convinced (by her owner) to marry an older Slave named Thomas on the same (his) plantation, and they produced three children (Peter, Elizabeth, Sophia). She was not allowed to marry a Slave named Robert, who she reportedly fell in love with, because he was owned by a different plantation and together, they reportedly produced one child (Diana) which by law became the property of Dumont. Sojourner was reportedly forced to breast feed her master's children which left little to no milk for her own flesh and blood.

National Black Theatre Festival 2022 Part II Winston-Salem NC Review Pic!They then delved into her quest for freedom in 1827 after the New York Gradual Abolition Act of 1799/80 dictated that she be set free. Her master Dumont agreed but then reneged on his promise to obey the law. Sojourner then devised a roost after he became ill and needed a doctor; she was allowed to take his horse but fled to the home of Dutch Abolitionists the Van Wagenen's instead.National Black Theatre Festival 2022 Part II Winston-Salem NC Review Pic!  They then purchased her freedom (for reportedly $20; today $611.38 [2023]) and were part of another roost that tricked an Alabama Slaveholder named Fowler into appearing in a New York court at which time he was ordered to return Sojourner's five-year-old son Peter, in 1828, who was sold by Dumont apparently in retaliation for her escape. They then brought out that he knocked Sojourner to the ground, but she got back up and kicked his rear end. The judge reportedly then had him jailed for assault. This was reportedly the first time that a Black/Negro (today African-American) woman had defeated a white man in court and possibly in the ring. Smile! As a show of appreciation, she changed her name to Isabella Van Wagenen. The performer then broke off into Sojourner's subsequent trouble with Peter as he had issues adjusting after his experience as a Slave in the Deep Southern State of Alabama; their (her and Peter's) move to New York City in circa 1829 (when he was 6 years old) to work as a housekeeper for evangelist preacher Elijah Pierson, and his trouble with the law that landed him in prison. Peter reportedly lived with his mother until 1839 (age 16) when he took a job on a whaling ship called the Zone of Nantucket. He reportedly wrote to her on three occasions between 1840 and 1841; however, was not on the ship when it returned to port in 1842 (age approximately 19). Sojourner reportedly never heard from him again.

National Black Theatre Festival 2022 Part II Winston-Salem NC Review Pic! She then moved to Northampton, Massachusetts in 1844 where she joined a utopian (idealistic, perfect) community, founded by abolitionists, whose members supported women's rights, religious tolerance, and pacifism (peaceful protests). It was called the Northampton Association of Education and Industry and was reportedly a stop on the Underground Railroad. Isabella Van Wagenen then had a religious transformation and began to preach, and thus reportedly changed her name to Sojourner Truth in 1848 (approximately 51 years old). It was in Northampton that she met William Lloyd Garrison (The Liberator Newspaper) and Frederick Douglass (The North Star Newspaper). She then became involved with the Anti-Slavery and Women's Rights movements and in 1851 (Women's Rights Convention held in Akron, Ohio) delivered what today is lauded as the most famous speech concerning those rights in American history - "Ain't I A Woman." Some say, however, that that phrase was not included in her original speech. I guess they did not have mobile devices and Social Media back then. Smile!

National Black Theatre Festival 2022 Part II Winston-Salem NC Review Pic!

National Black Theatre Festival 2022 Part II Winston-Salem NC Review Pic!They then broke-off into how Mr. Douglass was not too keen with Sojourner because he felt that she did not properly assimilate to the European society that had enslaved them both - especially when it came down to her manner of speaking. Some today would call it ghetto fabulous. Smile! She stood up to him and eventually sold him two postcards with her picture, he in turn gave her a copy of his book (although she was illiterate) and they remained friends moving forward. On that note, Sojourner narrated a book that would eventually become her autobiography in 1850 called "The Narrative of Sojourner Truth" which received national attention.

National Black Theatre Festival 2022 Part II Winston-Salem NC Review Pic! The performer then delved into the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on Saturday April 15, 1865, and the subsequent fear of being re-enslaved experienced by Black/Colored (today African-American) folks; the Reconstruction era (circa 1870 - 1920) which saw a plethora of Black/Colored officials get elected, the efforts of President Rutherford B. Hayes's to Deconstruct the freedom of Slaves, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) from Pulaski, Tennessee, and her trip to Alabama where she literally whooped the rear end of a Klan member. While there she received a visit from Frederick Douglass. This very important and remarkable play ended at 10:15 PM with a poignant speech "I am Sojourner and you better respect me" eloquently delivered by the Performer Zuhairah McGill of the First World Theatre Ensemble, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that garnered a much-deserved standing ovation from the audience. It featured background sound effects and voices from offstage that were accompanied by great acoustics.

National Black Theatre Festival 2022 Part II Winston-Salem NC Review Pic!

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