The historic Hosanna School Museum is hosting a special theatrical performance Wednesday to commemorate July 26, 1847, when free and freed Black Americans who relocated to Africa issued a Declaration of Independence and enacted a constitution that later established the independent Republic of Liberia.
The performance of “200 Years of Returns” will be held from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the museum, 2424 Castleton Road in Darlington. A $20 donation is suggested and includes lunch.
“Liberia is a space where diaspora is made,” said Jasmine L. Blanks Jones, scholar, playwright and founder of B4 Youth Theater, an acting group of Liberian youth who will put on the performance. “Indeed, that is how it became established as a refuge for Africans who had been dislocated from their home. It is important to remember our connections today. Interrogating the archival materials helps us to understand where historical gaps and silences may actually be rich with important possibilities for how Black people have always strove to make themselves free.”
B4 Youth Theater is a nonprofit that provides arts education programming for young people in Liberia, West Africa, and cultural exchange programs in the U.S. with the youth from Liberia.
Also, Iris Leigh Barnes, historian and executive director of Hosanna School Museum, will share stories of Harford and Cecil counties’ connections to the Liberia colonization movement.
“America’s founding of Liberia is little-known history that is all but forgotten,” Barnes said. “Harford and Cecil counties have connections that few know about or can imagine.”
“200 Years of Returns” compares past and present “returns” to Liberia since 1822 to explore trauma, truth, consequences and responsibility, using historical documents to highlight multiple perspectives and viewpoints, according to organizers.
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More than 10,000 free and formerly enslaved Black people colonized Liberia between 1821 and 1867. This year marks the bicentennial of Liberia’s establishment as a colony under the American Colonization Society.
Hundreds of Marylanders settled in Liberia after its independence in 1847, according to Silas N. Juaquellie, national director of B4 Youth Theatre. “They have their roots in Africa and perhaps some identities they left behind are with us in Liberia.”
Along with the show, guests will meet the cast of B4 youth from Liberia and Black museum theater actor interpreters from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation to learn their process of interpreting archival documents through performance.
“My process starts with a lot of research that many people out there do not have access to,” Juaquellie said. “We script the information and a drama that should be staged. This process reaches a lot of people because of the physical interactions. The emotions and interactions we take to that performance lead the process of connecting people with what is in the archival.”
Hosanna School Museum was the first of three Freedmen’s Bureau schoolhouses erected in Harford County. The building was used as a school, community meeting place and church. In 1879, Harford County School Commissioners assumed operation of the school and Hosanna remained an active schoolhouse for African American children until 1946.
Currently, it is a schoolhouse museum that attracts visitors from all over the country.