Historical Perspectives: The Life and Times of Activists

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Grand Central Depot of the Underground Railroad. Photo by: Cyndi Robuck

Throughout the past few months, I have had the privilege of participating in something very unique to Hofstra known as “Democracy in Performance.” Through this experience, several students (including myself) have spent the semester tirelessly researching historic activist figures, analyzing their texts, and assuming our roles for performance.

Why is this so important? Not only were these various performances produced on campus the day before the 2012 Presidential Debate Candidates arrived, but each person chosen to be reenacted embodied the solution to an issue that was (and still is) relevant to the November 6 election and contemporary society in general. For example, I put together a script compiled of several freedom summer activists that mirrored the recent voter suppression controversy.

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A Site of the Underground Railroad underneath  Plymouth Church.

The journey did not end with the performances, as we were each asked to do an in-depth analytic project explaining our research methods, connection to out roles/performance, as well as the connection we can make in today’s society.

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Lisa Merrill, PhD and Professor of Speech Performance with the Lois, Coordinator of Plymouth Church Historical Initiatives.

In doing so, a group of us decided to venture into Brooklyn, NY to take a look at Plymouth Church— the historic site where so many important figures have visited (Abraham Lincoln and  Martin Luther King, Jr. just to name a couple).

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One of the Many Stained Glass Windows at Plymouth Church.

Roles my peers have played such as Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, Ida B. Wells, and James Lyndon Johnson were key speakers at the church in the 19th century, and it was particularly thrilling to watch them make their connections, as I did with the re-telling of the significance the church had on the civil rights movement in the 1960’s.

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Where Abraham Lincoln had sat during his visit at the Plymouth Church.

This is just a simple piece documenting our experiences there, but I am in the process of putting together a full length documentary chronicling our journey through the entire process. For now, enjoy part one!

-jeanine

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