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Nance Williamson, left, and Britney Simpson in “The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington” at Hudson Valley Shakespeare
Sarah Krulwich / The New York Times

This summer, the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival is presenting a production of “The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington” by James Ijames. The show will run under the tent at Boscobel in Garrison, New York through July 30.

In the play, a recently widowed Martha Washington lies helpless in her Mount Vernon bed, ravaged by illness and cared for by the very slaves that will be free the moment she dies. As she begins to slip away, she falls deep into a fever dream of terrifying theatricality that investigates everything from her family to her historical legacy.

“The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington” is directed at HVShakes by Taylor Reynolds.

Reynolds is a New York-based director and theatremaker from Chicago and one of the Producing Artistic Leaders of OBIE-award winning The Movement Theatre Company in Harlem and she joins.

Brian Quijada and Nygel D. Robinson - screencap from "A DIOS" video - From the MEXODUS concept album about the Underground Railroad that led south to Mexico.
Brian Quijada/Nygel D. Robinson via YouTube / via YouTube

“Mexodus” is a new musical work by Brian Quijada and Nygel D. Robinson inspired by the estimated 4,000-10,000 enslaved people in the Southern part of the United States who found new lives in Mexico instead moving to the northern United States.

With the support of New York Stage and Film, Quijada and Robinson started working on “Mexodus” at the the beginning of our recent global pandemic. They have been collaborating while physically separate through technology -- releasing one track per month, with accompanying video of the two artists performing, for twelve months. Track 7 was recorded last February at Vassar’s Modfest.

New York Stage and Film will present “Mexodus” at Vassar College on July 17 at 7 p.m. and at Marist College on July 24 at 3 p.m.

Vermont Statehouse  (file photo)
Pat Bradley/WAMC

In 1777, Vermont became the first state to include a provision in its Constitution prohibiting slavery.  But it was a partial ban that the state is now working to amend.

Book cover for "The Devil You Know" and author photo of Charles M. Blow
Harper

Acclaimed New York Times columnist and author Charles M. Blow never wanted to write a “race book.” But as both physical and psychological violence against Black people seemed only to increase in recent years, culminating in the historic pandemic and protests of the summer of 2020, he felt compelled to write a new story for Black Americans.

His new book is "The Devil You Know."

The new book "400 Souls" is a unique one volume community history of African Americans. The editors Ibram X. Kendi and Keyshia Blaine have assembled 90 brilliant writers, each of whom takes on a five year period of that 400 year span.

The writers explore their periods through a variety of techniques: historical essays, short stories, personal vignettes, and fiery polemics. They approach history from various perspectives. Through the eyes of towering historical icons are the untold stories of ordinary people through places laws and objects.

Book cover for "The Prophets" By Robert Jones Jr.
Putnam

Robert Jones, Jr., creator of the Son of Baldwin online community, has written a debut novel, "The Prophets," about the forbidden union between two enslaved young men on a Deep South plantation, the refuge they find in each other, and a betrayal that threatens their existence. 

Last year, a best-selling author Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch wrote "The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington," a best-seller that was praised by critics, historians, and two U.S. presidents for its research and propulsive narrative.

Now Meltzer and Mensch return to uncover another fascinating episode previously lost to history in the new book, "The Lincoln Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill America's 16th President and Why it Failed." In our current climate of uncertainty and fear, the book is a reminder of the capacity for American greatness in the form of one of its most lauded and inspirational heroes, Abraham Lincoln.

In the late 1930s, the federal government embarked on an unusual project. As a part of the Works Progress Administration's efforts to give jobs to unemployed Americans, government workers tracked down 3,000 men and women who had been enslaved before and during the Civil War. The workers asked them probing questions about slave life. What did they think about their slaveholders? What songs did they sing? What games did they play? Did they always think about escaping?

The result was a remarkable compilation of interviews known as the Slave Narratives.

The new book, "River of Blood: American Slavery from the People Who Lived It," highlights those narratives; condensing tens of thousands of pages into short excerpts from about 100 former slaves and pairs their accounts with their photographs, taken by the workers sent to record their stories. Richard Cahan is a noted photo historian. He has teamed up to produce more than twelve books. Most are based on long-lost archives or photographic collections.

Composite Image by Dave Lucas

The University at Albany hosted a panel discussion Thursday afternoon to raise awareness on what defines human trafficking and how the Capital Region is impacted by it.

Petina Gappah is an award-winning and widely translated Zimbabwean writer. She is the author of two novels and two short story collections. Her work has also been published in, among others, The New Yorker, Der Spiegel, The Financial Times, and the Africa Report. For many years, Petina worked as an international trade lawyer at the highest levels of diplomacy in Geneva where she advised more than seventy developing countries from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America on trade law and policy. Petina has also been a DAAD Writing Fellow in Berlin, an Open Society Fellow and a Livingstone Scholar at Cambridge University. She has law degrees from Cambridge, Graz University in Austria, and the University of Zimbabwe.

In her latest novel, "Out of Darkness, Shining Light," she imagines the captivating story of the loyal men and women who carried explorer and missionary Dr. Livingstone's body, his papers and maps, fifteen hundred miles across the continent of Africa, so his remains could be returned home to England.

André Braugher In "A Human Being, Of A Sort" At Williamstown Theatre Festival
Williamstown Theatre Festival - Joseph O'Malley

André Braugher is a Golden Glove and Emmy Award winner best known for his roles in "Homicide: Life on the Street" and the current NBC sitcom, "Brooklyn Nine-Nine." He is currently starring in the Williamstown Theatre Festival's World-Premiere production of Jonathan Payne's "A Human Being, of a Sort."

Braugher plays a Southern convict named Smokey who is guarding the Bronx Zoo's most sensational exhibit: Ota Benga, a Congolese pygmy. 

Based on a true story, the play takes place in 1906, the public's fascination intensifies and protestors call for Ota's release, Smokey must grapple with the fact that his own freedom depends on another black man's captivity. 

"A Human Being, of a Sort" is directed at Williamstown by Whitney White and runs through July 7.

Black Theatre Troupe of Upstate NY presents “The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington” by James Ijames. The show will run at the Meader Little Theatre at Sage College June 7 through the 16. The production is directed by Patrick White.

A recently widowed Martha Washington lies helpless in her Mount Vernon bed, ravaged by illness and cared for by the very slaves that will be free the moment she dies. As she begins to slip away, she falls deep into a fever dream of terrifying theatricality that investigates everything from her family to her historical legacy.

Here to tell us more about the production are Black Theatre Troupe and this production are Black Theatre Troupe Artistic Director Jean-Remy Monnay and actors Lucy Breyer and Angelique Powell who play Martha Washington and Doll, respectively.

Great Barrington Historical Society's 2019 lecture at St. James Place In Great Barrington, Massachusetts is: "Elizabeth Freeman’s Case for Freedom: The End of Slavery in Massachusetts and the Black Berkshire Community in Post-Colonial America." The talk by Dr. David Levinson is scheduled for May 11.

Levinson is a cultural anthropologist and former vice-president at Yale University's Human Relations Area Files, an anthropological think-tank. He is co-author of “One Minute a Free Woman: Elizabeth Freeman and the Struggle for Freedom.”

The state Senate in Vermont — the first state to abolish adult slavery — has given preliminary approval to a proposal to amend the state constitution to remove references to slavery.

In May 2017, Mayor Mitch Landrieu addressed the people of New Orleans about his decision to take down four Confederate monuments in the city. His speech, which has been heard by millions, sparked a national conversation about the history of our nation and how best to confront our heritage.

In his book, "In The Shadow Of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History," former Mayor Landrieu discusses the path he took to remove the Confederate monuments and traces his personal relationship to this history, tackling the broader history of slavery, race, and institutional inequality in America.

Book Cover - Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America's Journey from Slavery to Segregation

Steve Luxenberg is the author of "Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America's Journey from Slavery to Segregation" and the critically acclaimed "Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret." During his thirty years as a Washington Post senior editor, he has overseen reporting that has earned numerous national honors, including two Pulitzer Prizes.

Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court case synonymous with “separate but equal,” created remarkably little stir when the justices announced their near-unanimous decision on May 18, 1896. Yet it is one of the most compelling and dramatic stories of the nineteenth century, whose outcome embraced and protected segregation, and whose reverberations are still felt into the twenty-first. "Separate" spans a striking range of characters and landscapes, bound together by the defining issue of their time and ours: race and equality.

FBI.gov

Today is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Day. Albany County officials are marking the day with the launch of a county webpage dedicated to raising awareness and helping victims.

Playwright Kyle Bass is the Associate Artistic Director at Syracuse Stage; he is currently the Burke Chair for Regional Studies at Colgate University.

His newest play, “Possessing Harriet,” directed by Tazewell Thompson, just had a successful world premiere at Syracuse Stage with sold-out houses for the entire run.

The original cast and the playwright will be performing a public staged reading of the full play on Thursday, November 15th at 7:30 pm at the New York State Museum.

Colson Whitehead’s novel "The Underground Railroad," tells the story of a runaway slave and re-imagines the pre-Civil War South. It won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book award and Whitehead was recently named The New York State Writer - one of the biggest prizes in literature.

Courtesy of SUNY New Paltz

The president of the State University of New York at New Paltz is recommending that names of a number of campus buildings be removed and replaced. The move comes after the president charged the school’s Diversity and Inclusion Council with reviewing the names on six buildings that are connected with slave owners.

Brad Meltzer is the New York Times bestselling author of "Heroes for My Son, Heroes for My Daughter," and a number of suspense novels. He's the creator of the childrens' book series "Ordinary People Change the World" which is illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos. Meltzer is also the host of the History Channel television shows "Brad Meltzer's Decoded" and "Brad Meltzer's Lost History."

His joined us to discuss both "I am Harriet Tubman" from the Ordinary People series and his newest suspense novel, "The Escape Artist."

Kevin R. C. Gutzman is the New York Times best-selling author of five books, including his latest, Thomas Jefferson—Revolutionary: A Radical’s Struggle to Remake America.

Although remembered as the third president of the United States and chief author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson was also something more: the most successful constructive statesman in American history.

Thomas Jefferson—Revolutionary: A Radical's Struggle to Remake Americashows him formulating his radical plans to republicanize America and then working, with remarkable success, to implement them. Born into a monarchical society, Jefferson turned his great intellect and energy to making it highly egalitarian. Much of what we take for granted about America now was originally Jefferson's idea. It is a fascinating story.

Sidney Blumenthal is the former assistant and senior adviser to President Bill Clinton, and senior adviser to Hillary Clinton. He has been a national staff reporter for The Washington Post, Washington editor and staff writer for The New Yorker, senior writer for The New Republic, and contributed to numerous additional publications. His books include the bestselling The Clinton Wars, The Rise of the Counter-Establishment and The Permanent Campaign. Among his films, he was the executive producer of the Academy Award- and Emmy Award-winning Taxi to the Dark Side.

Volume II of Sidney Blumenthal’s acclaimed, landmark biography, The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln, reveals the future president’s genius during the most decisive period of his political life when he seizes the moment, finds his voice, and helps create a new political party. The title of the book is Wrestling With His Angel: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln Vol. II, 1849-1856.

Here’s a rather obscure name from American history: Billy Lee. He was George Washington’s valet. There’s also Alfred Jackson. He was a faithful servant of Andrew Jackson. The two names you do know have something in common, they were US Presidents. The other two men also have something in common, they were slaves.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we open up the door to history class and talk about the complicated early history of the US…and the people who lived in the shadow of liberty.

We’ll also spend an academic minute passing the buck.


  Charles Dew, one of America’s most respected historians of the South, will tell us about his powerful memoir - The Making of a Racist: A Southerner Reflects on Family, History, and the Slave Trade.

He turns the focus on his own life, which began not in the halls of enlightenment but in a society unequivocally committed to segregation.

 

In the book, Dew re-creates the mid-century American South of his childhood--in many respects a boy’s paradise, but one stained by Lost Cause revisionism and, worse, by the full brunt of Jim Crow.

 

The second half of the book shows how this former Confederate youth and descendant of Thomas Roderick Dew, one of slavery’s most passionate apologists, went on to reject his racist upbringing and become a scholar of the South and its deeply conflicted history.

 

The centerpiece of Dew’s story is his sobering discovery of a price

Charles Dew is Ephraim Williams Professor of American History at Williams College and the author of the Fletcher Pratt Award-winning Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War and Bond of Iron: Master and Slave at Buffalo Forge, selected as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

Did you know that many of America’s Founding Fathers― who fought for liberty and justice for all ― were slave owners?

Through the powerful stories of five enslaved people who were “owned” by four of our greatest presidents, Kenneth Davis’ new book, In the Shadow of Liberty, helps set the record straight about the role slavery played in the founding of America.

From Billy Lee, valet to George Washington, to Alfred Jackson, faithful servant of Andrew Jackson, these dramatic narratives explore our country’s great tragedy―that a nation “conceived in liberty” was also born in shackles.

Kenneth C. Davis is the New York Times bestselling author of America’s Hidden History and Don’t Know Much About History, which gave rise to the "Don’t Know Much About" series of books for adults and children. 

The founder of the Slave Dwelling Project will spend Friday night in an ancient cellar of a house on Historic Huguenot Street in New Paltz. His mission is to bring awareness to the existence of former slave dwellings, their history and need for preservation. In this case, he also aims to shine a light on Northern slave ownership.

    In our Ideas Matter segment we take time just about every week to check in with the state humanities councils in our 7-state region.

Today we learn about Reading Frederick Douglass, a statewide initiative led by Mass Humanities. Communities and organizations around the state typically organize public readings of Douglass' speech, "What is the Meaning of the Fourth of July to the Negro." We are joined today by Manisha Sinha, Professor of Afro-American Studies at University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Rose Sackey-Milligan, Program Officer at Mass Humanities. With them we explore the value of the humanities in enhancing and improving civic life.

A History Of Abolition

Feb 26, 2016

  In celebration of Black History Month there is a new book by a University of Massachusetts professor that overturns long-held assumptions about the abolitionist movement. The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition is by Manisha Sinha, published by Yale University Press.

Sinha shows that rather than being composed of white, bourgeois, racially paternalistic reformers, abolitionism was a radical movement of women and men, black and white, slave and free who supported feminism, labor rights and utopian socialism.

Relying on extensive archival research and newly discovered materials, The Slave’s Cause explores the influence on abolition of the Haitian Revolution and slave resistance.

  In The Black Calhouns, Gail Lumet Buckley—daughter of actress Lena Horne—delves deep into her family history, detailing the experiences of an extraordinary African-American family from Civil War to Civil Rights.

Beginning with her great-great grandfather Moses Calhoun, a house slave who used the rare advantage of his education to become a successful businessman in post-war Atlanta, Buckley follows her family’s two branches: one that stayed in the South, and the other that settled in Brooklyn. 

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