Juneteenth event will feature ‘The Shared History of Germans and African Americans in Missouri’

HLG juneteenth

Speakers for the symposium are, top row from left, Sydney Norton and John Wright; and bottom row from left, Gary Kremer and Cecilia Nadel. | Photos courtesy of Hannibal-LaGrange University

HANNIBAL, Mo. — Jim’s Journey: The Huck Finn Freedom Center and the Deutschheim Verein will present a “Symposium on the Shared History of Germans and African Americans” from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, June 10, at the Roland Arts Center at Hannibal LaGrange University. A public reception will precede the symposium at 1 p.m.

A taste of African American food will be provided by Nathan’s South Florida Style Ribs, Chicken and Seafood Caterers in Columbia. German African appetizers will be provided by Bethel Colony German Fest Hall Restaurant. The menu offers fried chicken, mac and cheese, bratwurst and kraut, sweet potato pie, Linzer cookies, collard greens and more.

The symposium will include speakers, musical presentations by the Good Hope Church Praise Singers and a 30-minute excerpt from the play An Amazing Story: German Abolitionists of Missouri. Symposium speakers are:

  • Gary Kremer, executive director of the Missouri State Historical Society;
  • John Wright, author of 12 books on African American history in Missouri;
  • Sydney Norton, author of “German Immigrant Abolitionists: Fighting for a Free Missouri”; and
  • Cecilia Nadal, sociologist and playwright who wrote “An Amazing Story: German Abolitionists of Missouri.”

Actors in “An Amazing Story: German Abolitionists of Missouri” are:

  • Dick Dalton (Columbia) recently in the lead role of Grumpy Old Men;
  • Sierra Smith (St. Louis), also a singer involved in theater and film projects such as “Dreamgirls” and “Hercules, the Brave and the Bold.”
  • Lydia Foss is returning twith numerous credits as an actress though still in high school.
  • Jacob Allen Farmer is a junior at the Webster University Conservatory of Theater Arts with lead roles in “Godspell” and “Burial at Thebes.”

Director Lee Patton Chiles has directed numerous plays for Historyonics Theater and Gitana Productions, including “New World” and “Black and Blue.”

Attendees will also have an opportunity to check out a special visual arts exhibit next door at The Hagerman Arts Gallery. It will feature an exhibit of photomontages created by Faye Dant called “SEEN.” The pieces depict the lived experiences of local black residents from enslavement to the 1960s.

Since Dant began showing her work, she has been hosted widely in Missouri galleries including the Hannibal Arts Council, The Alliance Art Gallery, the St. Louis Artists Guild, Presser Performing Arts Center in Mexico, Mo., and the Quincy Art Center. The gallery will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

.This event will be the first time in Missouri that a Juneteenth celebration has focused on the contributions of German Abolitionists and the relationships between Germans and African Americans.

In a press release, Dant, also the executive director of Jim’s Journey: The Huck Finn Freedom Center,” said, “Juneteenth is about education and unity. This event allows us to recognize the little-known contributions of German Abolitionists in Missouri and to bring our communities together as fellow Americans.”

The Deutschheim Verein will engage in community engagement in Hannibal, including asking citizens of Hannibal to send in family or personal stories about German and African American relationships before, during or after the Civil War that are a source of inspiration followed by an invitation to a small group dialogue sharing stories between Germans and African Americans at the Hannibal Free Library from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, July 22.

The Deutschheim Verein in Hermann is dedicated to the preservation of the culture and heritage of the Germans who migrated to Missouri in the 19th century.

Jim’s Journey recognizes one of Mark Twain’s most complex yet locally under-represented literary figures — Jim, the runaway slave and friend to Huck Finn. Though Jim is a fictional character, he was based on a real person, Daniel Quarles.

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