Tuesday, February 07, 2017

George Washington's Runaway Slave, Tuesday, February 21, 7pm

       Join us at the Dover Public Library on Tuesday evening, February 21 at 7pm for an extraordinary storytelling experience, presented by the Friends of the Library and funded, in part, by a grant from the New Hampshire Humanities Council. 

         Gwendolyn Quezaire-Presutti will portray Oney Judge, an enslaved African American servant on George Washington's plantation in Mount Vernon, Virginia. In "If I Am Not For Myself, Who Will Be For Me?", Quezaire-Presutti brings Oney to life through the young woman’s account of joining the presidential household in 1789, and escaping the Executive Mansion in Philadelphia in 1796. With the aid of the free black community, she took a ship to Portsmouth, NH where she built a new life for herself, married, and had three children.

         In 1790, there were fewer than 60,000 free blacks in the United States while almost 700,000 were still held in slavery. George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate still owned 317 slaves in 1799. Oney’s story is not a stereotypical runaway account: more is known about Oney Judge Staines than any other Mount Vernon slave, as she was extensively interviewed by abolitionist newspapers in the nineteenth century. Oney’s voice provides the informative details needed to appreciate her struggles, her self-determination and the triumphs of her life.

          In her one-woman shows, Gwendolyn Quezaire-Presutti combines her expertise in public speaking, her interest in historical research, and her passion for storytelling and dramatic performance. She studied at the University of Wisconsin and is a committed scholar of African-American Studies, particularly women of color. She is on the Performing Artist roster at the Connecticut Historical Society Museum, the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, and the Social Theatre with Young Audiences of Connecticut Arts for Learning. She received the Institute of Texan Cultures' Director's Award for Excellence, the Greater Hartford Arts Council/ Boston Fund Individual Artist Fellowship, and first place in the International Toastmaster Award competition for Interpretive Reading.

            This program is free. For more information, call the Dover Public Library at 603-516-6050.

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