First, the great, free or low cost entertainment:
Back to back next weekend on February 22nd and 23rd the 300th is proud to announce two fine performances in celebration of Black History Month.
"Paul Robeson Through his Words and Music” interweaves two dozen songs that were sung by Robeson, with a narrative of his life as an actor, singer, activist, and humanitarian and will be performed Saturday evening, February 22nd.
Paul Robeson (1898-1976) was born in Princeton, NJ to a former slave, the Reverend William Robeson at a time of open racism and segregation. Robeson attended high school in Somerville, NJ where the head of the Music Department was Miss Bessie Vosseller, one of the two founders of the Flemington Choir School along with Miss Bessie Hopewell. Miss Bessie Vosseller is credited with noticing Robeson as a very gifted student and gave him his early musical training as well as special attention. Robeson personally credited Vosseller as the first person to take his voice seriously. Robeson came to Flemington in 1938 to personally thank her.
Robeson attended Columbia University where he simultaneously received his law degree and played professional football. At Columbia, he sang and acted in off-campus productions and, after graduating, he became a participant in the Harlem renaissance which resulted in his major career on both stage and screen as both a Shakespearean actor, Broadway star and great baritone. He sold out concerts around the world singing in more than 25 different languages.
Robeson starred in Shakespeare's Othello, the musical Showboat, and films such as Jericho and Proud Valley. He was one of the top performers and earners of the time.
As a worldwide performer and traveler, Robeson became a Civil and Human Rights activist. Robeson took many unpopular and controversial positions for his time including for the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War, for independence in India and for the labor movement in Great Britain. Most infamously, Robeson took a pro-Communist position during the Cold War. He felt that under Stalinism people were treated equally while in the United States he was banned from using “Whites Only” restrooms, restaurants and hotels. This led to Robeson being blacklisted during McCathyism, his passport being revoked and ultimately a legal challenge against the State Department as to “whether American citizens, regardless of their political beliefs or sympathies, may enjoy their constitutional rights." In 1958, after years of fighting, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the State Department could not deny American citizens the right to travel because of their political beliefs or affiliations.
Although triumphantly returning to Carnegie Hall in a sold out concert, the years of fighting his being blacklisted, fighting for his Constitutional rights and simultaneously not working affected his health and ultimately his career. Robeson moved to Philadelphia where he lived in seclusion and died in 1976 in somewhat obscurity.
Paul Robeson is portrayed by Derrick McQueen who has performed this role in various states around the country. “Paul Robeson Through his Words and Music” begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Flemington Presbyterian Church. Tickets are free but required and may be obtained from either the Tricentennial’s website or at the Flemington Choir School in Flemington. For further information, contact the Hunterdon Tricentennial Committee at (908) 788-2030 or visit their website at www.hunterdon300th.org.
The following day, Sunday afternoon, February 23rd, the East Amwell Historical Society will present "A DRAMATIC DIALOGUE BETWEEN DR. LARISON AND SILVIA DUBOIS" at the Little Theatre (Hunterdon Central High School off Route 523) at 4 pm. In an extended interview in 1883 Silvia Dubois, then nearly 100 years old, told her life story to Dr. Cornelius Wilson Larison. How much of Silvia's life is history and how much is folklore we cannot be sure, but it remains a fascinating view of slave life and the life of the uneducated free black in the North during the 18th and 19th centuries. The presentation is based on Dr. Larison's biography on Silvia Dubois, who was born into slavery in the Sourland Mountains around 1788. After repeated beatings by her mistress, Sylvia finally hit back. Surprisingly, her master granted her freedom. Her life's story is a fascinating study of true grit and the determination to live free.
Joy Kelly Smith, a New York stage actress, professional story-teller, director and musician will portray Silvia Dubois. Ron O'Reilly, a resident of East Amwell and personal historian who helps people tell their life stories, will play the part of Dr. Larison.
The Dialogue is $5 at the door; no reservations or tickets are required in advance.Now, if you are a QUILTER, pay attention to this announcement: In conjunction with the quilt display and lecture the first week of April, a Symposium with four nationally known speakers is being presented on Saturday, April 12th at the Baptistown Baptist Church, 1040 Route 519, Baptistown, NJ. This is a full day seminar that runs from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Included in the $50 fee is a continental breakfast and lunch. Only 50 tickets are available. If you are interested in attending this special day, please send your check payable to the Hunterdon County Tricentennial Committee for $50 to Judy Grow-Seminar, 76 Old Clinton Road, Flemington, NJ 08822. If you have questions, you can email Judy directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include with your check your name, phone number(s) and email address.
The speakers for the symposium include Sue Reich (Washington Depot, CT) who will speak on "Quiltings, Frolicks and Bees: 100 Years of Signature Quilts", Karen Dever (Moorestown, NJ) speaking on "My Garden of Quilts - Botanical Textiles", Newbie Richardson (Alexandria, VA) who will speak on "Quilts in Context" and Dana Balsamo (Princeton, NJ) speaking on "Evaluating Your Quilts... Is It a Treasure?" Attendees are invited to bring their own antique quilts for evaluation.
For more information including a download of the brochure for the 300th's quilt display "Common Threads: Quilting Traditions in Hunterdon County, NJ" please see the Tricentennial's website.