“I would fight for my liberty so long as my strength lasted, and if the time came for me to go, the Lord would let them take me.” – Harriet Tubman
Powerful. Leader. Brave. All are words that come to mind when speaking of Harriet Tubman, one of the most well-known abolitionists in American history. Actress Gwendolyn Briley-Strand thinks of three more defining words for Tubman: The Chosen One.
In her one-woman performance, Briley-Strand takes audiences through the life a legacy of Tubman through music, props, costumes and more than a dozen characters. The show celebrates the life of this great American who made her way to freedom, and then risked her freedom to free others.
“Harriet Tubman: The Chosen One” is coming to Wilmington University, Feb. 1.
For 25 years, Briley-Strand has brought the story of Harriet Tubman to life for national audiences including performances at the White House.
“I studied the life Harriet Tubman for a play,” says Briley-Strand. “The more I studied, the more I learned and the more I realized how little the average person knew about her. That’s when the journey started.”
From there, Briley-Strand wrote and produced the show as a part of her production company See The Fruits, Inc., which uses the arts to teach American history. So far she has taken the show to 30 states.
Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery by the young age of 29. She became a leading abolitionist before the American Civil War. Tubman risked her life and freedom and returned many times to rescue both family members and other slaves from the plantation system. She was known as a “conductor” the Underground Railroad, an elaborate secret network of safe houses organized to help free slaves. It’s reported that Tubman freed close to one thousand slaves in her work.
In a famous Tubman quote, she notes: “I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say; I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.”
Briley-Strand also wrote a production about the civil rights activist, Rosa Parks named “Rosa Parks: Such A Time.”
Her favorite part of performing both women, Harriett Tubman and Rosa Parks, is seeing her audiences absorb the tenacity, conviction, strength and faith that they had.
“I want everyone to know that these were ordinary women with extraordinary courage,” says Briley-Strand. Her goal is to help audience member realized that their contributions can make a difference for good in the world.
The College of Arts and Sciences, Student Life and the Wilmington University Library are hosting the presentation in honor of Black History Month.
Lynn Moore, chair of the history department for the College of Arts and Sciences, wants to give students access to programming that highlights important moments from history in a relatable and easily digestable manner.
Moore says: “Watching Gwendolyn perform is magical. She truly makes history come alive with her characters. She gives the audience something to think about and appreciate.”
The presentation will be held in Wilmington University’s Doberstein Admissions Center auditorium on the New Castle campus from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. It is free and open to the community to attend. No advance registration is required.
Attendees are also invited to come early and experience “Portals through Time” an easy to view, museum-quality exhibit that covers the most pivotal times in African-American history. The exhibit will be open for viewing from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the DAC auditorium.