PUBLIC PROGRAM: Teaching Black History Through Theater

In this hour long progam, re-enactors Donald Hyman, Penny Meacham, Walter Simpkins, and Clifford Oliver will portray prominent local and national African Americans including Judge James C. Matthews, Sojourner Truth, Moses Viney, and Solomon Northrup. Each presenter will provide insight into how theatrical performances and re-enactments help tell the often unknown stories of these important historical figures. There will also be a time for Q&A with event attendees.

A performance by the gospel choir from First Israel AME Church (Albany) will be featured during this event, as well as a dance performance by Estreja Turner. Light refreshments will be available for attendees.

  • Included with admission

Space is limited. Please get a wristband from the Admission Desk the day of the event.


Donald Hyman

Donald "the Soul Man" Hyman is a Brooklynite who now calls Albany home. He has portrayed Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  He will be portraying Judge James C. Matthews. He is currently Vice- Chairman for Channel Albany and has produced "Albany Tempo Spectrum" for 8 seasons. He currently works at Montessori  Magnet School in Albany.  He taught in the American Studies Department at the College of St. Rose.  

Penny Meacham

Penny Meacham is a poetess/actress. She will be playing the role of Sojourner Truth. She has portrayed Zora Neale Hurston, Billie Holiday, Maya Angelou and Ella Baker. She is a writer and has numerous self published poetry books  including “Hudson Holla” and “The Aretha Factor”. Meacham is the creator and artistic director of Black Diamond Group Performance Ensemble.

Walter Simpkins

Walter Simpkins is the Executive Director of Community Fathers Incorporated. He holds a BA from the City College of New York and his credentials also include a Masters degree from the State University at Albany in Africana Studies
Walter Simpkins will portray Moses Viney, a runaway slave who found refuge at Union College in Schenectady. Viney fled a plantation on Maryland's Eastern Shore in 1840 at 23 when he learned he was about to be sold. Simpkins has portrayed Moses Viney annually at the opening of the Hamilton Hills Arts Center Juneteenth Celebration at Vale Cemetery.

Clifford Oliver

Although born and raised in the Bronx, Clifford Oliver has spent his entire adult life photographing in rural New York.  As a veteran staff photographer with New York State’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Clifford was introduced to historic re-enactors.  Aside from being beautiful subjects to photograph, Clifford loved the way re-enactors taught history and it didn’t take long for Clifford to be recruited as an re-enactor. Living in Washington County, it stands to reason that Solomon Northup would be the first personage Clifford Mealy took on some twenty years ago. Since then, Jack of the Mabee Farm, Old Tom at Knickerbocker Mansion, Prince at Schulyer Mansion are some of the forgotten inhabitants of our past that Clifford has resurrected. 

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