Artwork, music and dance performances will come together to share moments in Black history during the six-week “A Never-Told Story in Art, History and Music” event celebrating Black History Month and Hannibal's Bicentennial from Feb. 4 to March 15 in the Hannibal-LaGrange University Hagerman Art Gallery and locations throughout the area.
Faye Dant, curator and executive director of Jim's Journey: The Huck Finn Freedom Center, said the partnership with the Hannibal Bicentennial Committee and Hannibal-LaGrange University sparked enthusiasm from the outset. Rare photographs curated by Dant will join creative works from artists like Ezra Thompson, Robert Brown, Sky Rogers, Najjar Abdul-Musawwir, Preston Jackson, Lowell Daniels and Byron Rogers. Michael Chlebanowski, Hagerman Art Gallery director, assured Dant the event would be “not our first, but our first annual” celebration, Dant said, pointing out that the activities were an ideal follow up for the Mayors Reunion in January at City Hall.
Dant said the celebration will help “fill the gaps left by textbooks and teachers” regarding the numerous achievements of Hannibal's African Americans. A freed slave was born in Hannibal who started his career as a school teacher in town and went on to become the first full-term American senator and the first African American to win an Olympic gold medal.
The artwork, music, photographs and speeches will help to shed light on other lesser-known details as well. Hannibal's founder, Moses Bates, was accompanied by four slaves and was a Confederate army officer and slave trader. Also, George Wallace, the first openly pro-segregation presidential candidate, held a rally with the KKK in Central Park.
“Most agree that there is power in pictures,” Dant said. “Our goal with this exhibit is to give visitors a cultural experience promoting pride, hope and understanding — an exhibit that represents our history, our identity and our bond to the past, the present and the future.”
Marsha Mayfield will lead a family-oriented educational and entertainment performance recounting moments in black history with “Through The Youthful Eyes of Puppetry” at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19 at the Hannibal Free Public Library.
The annual Black History Month program will begin at 4 p.m. at Second Christian Church in New London. Dant is the guest speaker, and she will present “Stories Hidden in Grandma's Scrapbook.” The Soul Food Dinner will follow the presentation. Scott's Chapel United Methodist Church will host a celebration beginning at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, called “The Making of a Prophet” in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.
The Hannibal Bicentennial Committee will sponsor a closing reception and musical performance by Hannibal native Dr. Paul Griggsby. Visitors can meet the artists in the art gallery at 6 p.m. Hannibal native Dr. Paul Griggsby, a classical baritone singer and concert pianist from the Denver area will perform at 6:30 p.m. in the Parker Auditorium at Roland Fine Arts Center.
Dant also looks forward to the praise dancers who combine interpretive dances and music to tell stories and celebrate Jubilee Day at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16 in the lobby of the Roland Fine Arts Center.
Jubilee Day is a tribute to more than 14,000 formerly enslaved men, women and children who were freed when legislators in the Missouri Congress signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 11, 1865. She described the unique performance by area high school students as similar to “black ballet.”
“It turns out beautiful,” she said. “They're always in beautiful gowns.”
Dant said she is eager to host more events later in the Hannibal's bicentennial year. For more information, please call (217) 617-1507 or visitwww.jimsjourney.org.