Tuesday, April 30, 2013

From the Library Company Blog: Commemorating Abolitionism in 1830s Philadelphia

Our friends at the Library Company of Philadelphia have been great assets to the Place Philadelphia project. Check out the blog post from Library Company staffers Krystal Appiah and Nicole Joniec HERE. Get their insight on If She Stood and the companion exhibit, Freedom, Fire and Promiscuous Meetings.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Get to know the women of "If She Stood"

Seated in the Bride’s performance space, which has been transformed into a 19th century Quaker meeting, for the world premiere production of If She Stood audiences meet four women who collectively stood to abolish slavery, literally invent the women’s rights movement and right a host of societal wrongs: Sarah Mapps Douglass, Sarah Grimke, Angelina Weld Grimké, and Sarah Pugh.

Sarah Mapps Douglass was an outspoken abolitionist, educator, public lecturer, writer, and crusader for equal rights. Both her parents were prominent African American abolitionists. Sarah grew up deeply rooted within the abolitionist movement and participated in many areas. With her mother, Sarah helped establish the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1833, and she served as the manager, recording secretary and as its librarian. Her contributions and commitment to African American education were vast, teaching both children and adults. In 1820, at the age of 16, Sarah opened a school for black children. In 1853, Sarah headed the preparatory department at the Philadelphia Institute for Colored Youth, and for over 25 years, she was a teacher and administrator at the school. Sarah publicly and openly expressed her opposition to the segregation African Americans faced in the Quaker meeting houses of worship that she attended. The Douglass family forged social and political networks with both black and white abolitionists. She maintained a long and close friendship with Sarah and Angelina Grimké, daughters of South Carolina slaveholders. The Grimkés joined the abolitionist movement within the Philadelphia Quaker community in the early 1830s. In her letters to Sarah Grimké, Douglass revealed the pain of encountering race prejudice among fellow Quakers. The Arch Street meeting, for example, required blacks and whites to sit on separate benches. Although her mother continued to attend the Arch Street Meeting, Sarah eventually stopped attending.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Every Month is Women's History Month: Maria Stewart, A Free Black Woman

As much I love Women's History and African American History months, I have a beef about observing them. Once the time has passed, important women and African Americans return to the closet of obscurity. In honor of "Every Month is Women's History Month," I'm posting a visit with Maria Stewart.

Although she was from Boston, not Philadelphia, Stewart was an activist. She is considered the first American-born woman to lecture in public.  She began speaking against slavery, colonization and equal rights in 1832.
Stewart spoke because she would not be silenced. She started out by writing essays, which she took to William Lloyd Garrison. The abolitionist publisher printed her essays and her speeches.
But the speeches caused controversy; women were to be seen, not heard. But Stewart's words are stirring. Read the beginning of her first speech, "Why Sit Ye Here and Die":

Why sit ye here and die? If we say we will go to a foreign land, the famine and the pestilence are there, and there we shall die. If we sit here, we shall die. Come let us plead our cause before the whites: if they save us alive, we shall live—and if they kill us, we shall but die....
In the same speech, she points a finger at discrimination:
And such is the powerful force of prejudice. Let our girls possess what amiable qualities of soul they may; let their characters be fair and spotless as innocence itself; let their natural taste and ingenuity be what they may; it is impossible for scarce an individual of them to rise above the condition of servants. Ah! why is this cruel and unfeeling distinction? Is it merely because God has made our complexion to vary?
Although Stewart's voice was strong, her career was shortened by those opposed to women speaking in public. Her farewell address was as passionate and pointed as her other speeches. Eventually, she started schools for free African-American children in Washington, D.C.

Still Stewart's insistence on standing her ground and speaking her mind paved the way for the women involved in the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1833.

You can listen to her "speaking" at http://www.radiocurious.org/2012/03/06/maria-stewart-sandra-kamusukiri-a-visit-with-a-free-black-women-boston-1840-2/
If the link doesn't work, copy and paste the address into your browser.

This blog explores issues raised by "If She Stood," a play by Ain Gordon and Nadine Patterson for the Place Philadelphia project. Please subscribe to receive posts in your email.
"If She Stood" will run for six performances:
  • Friday, April 26, 2013 at 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, April 28, 2013 at 3 p.m.
  • Friday, May 3, 2013 at 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, May, 2013 at 8 p.m.
  • Sunday May 5, 2013 at 3 p.m.

Tickets are on sale now - BUY HERE.