62°F
weather icon Clear

Meet Sojourner Truth at the Pahrump Valley Museum

Every time Nevada humanities speakers Kim Russell gets ready to take the stage for a Chautauqua-style living history performance, she pauses first and finds a quiet place.

Then, this 21st century author and educator reaches back across time to hold a silent conversation with the legendary abolitionist Sojourner Truth, whose identity she is about to assume.

“I wouldn’t think of starting a performance without asking her permission first,” said Russell, who will be appearing at the Pahrump Valley Museum on Saturday, July 23. “I offer to speak for her.”

Russell appears before the audience first as herself—an author, performer and historian, whose day job is managing education programs at the Smith Center in Las Vegas and putting the performing arts into schools. Then, a bit at a time, she dons a special costume designed to resemble a dress worn by Sojourner Truth when she met with Abraham Lincoln at the White House in 1864. When the costume is complete, Russell fades out and Truth comes forward.

Truth, who started life as a slave named Isabella Baumfree in upstate New York, eventually became a tireless advocate for the abolition of slavery and is perhaps best remembered for her stirring speech “Ain’t I a Woman?”

It was this speech that brought Russell and Sojourner Truth together nearly 20 years ago, when Russell studied it as a monologue for an acting class. Russell liked the energy of it and performed the speech for other audiences until someone suggested she turn it into a Chautauqua presentation.

Inspired by the idea, Russell wanted to learn more about Truth. She read everything she could find and visited the places where Truth lived. “I walked in her footsteps. I visited her grave. I went to her home site.” And over the years, said Russell, what began as an actor playing a character changed into something more synergistic. Russell’s Sojourner Truth “found her own personality and her own voice. It’s her story, not mine.”

Since then Russell has played to hundreds of audiences, including at the George W. Bush White House.

This Saturday’s performance, sponsored by the Nevada Humanities On The Road program, the Pahrump Valley Museum, and the Pahrump Simply Homeschoolers, is presented with school-age children in mind.

“Chautauqua is a learning tool for allowing the audience to live in the [character’s] moment,” she said. “They get to discuss the serious issues of today looking through the eyes of the past.”

The performance is free to the public and all ages are welcome to attend. Russell will take the stage at 11 a.m., just after she gets the OK from Sojourner Truth. The museum is located at 401 E. Basin Ave.

Robin Flinchum is a freelance writer and editor living in Tecopa, California. Her book, “Red Light Women of Death Valley,” was published last year.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
LIST: Senior Menus

Pahrump Senior Center

Neese, Attebery win divisions in PVTBC 9-pin no-tap tournament

Mary Neese and Annette Attebery won their divisions and Attebery and Troy Smith Jr. won side pots Saturday at the Pahrump Valley Tournament Bowling Club’s 9-pin no-tap tournament at the Pahrump Nugget Bowling Center.

LIST: Senior Menus

Pahrump Senior Center

Miller, Salzwimmer, Dilger win divisions in Pahrump horseshoes tournament

Ellie Miller of Richfield, Utah defeated Steve Lopez of Kingman, Arizona in a playoff to capture the tournament championship Saturday at the Southern Nevada Horseshoe Pitching Association’s fourth annual Christmas Tree Open at Petrack Park.

Gulley, O’Herron win Turkey Bowl at Pahrump Nugget

Randy Gulley rolled a 985 series to win the third annual 9-pin no-tap Turkey Bowl Tournament on Nov. 26 at the Pahrump Nugget Bowling Center.

LIST: Senior Menu

Pahrump Senior Center

Times seeks entrants for Christmas light displays for 2020

Pahrump residents that get into the Christmas spirit and want to show it with large displays of lights are needed for the 2020 self-guided tour of town.

Small Business Saturday returns in Nye

Nye County will celebrate another year of Small Business Saturday, with Nye County commissioners formally declaring the event in 2019.

Salvation Army receives money, turkeys from Cox

Cox Communications recently presented $100,000 and 100 frozen turkeys to the Salvation Army to help the nonprofit provide support to Southern Nevada families in need.