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History being taught through acting series

Photo courtesy of Kim Shuette

Annette Jefferson is not 69 years old, and she has never met Rosa Parks, but she hopes that she can convince her audiences for a little while that she is and has.

Annette is a professional teaching artist and is premiering her new performance, “Memories of Miss Rosa and Her Bus Ride,” with the Ohio Historical Society’s “Echoes in Time” series.

When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala. bus on Dec. 1, 1955, she helped fuel the Civil Rights Movement.
Jefferson’s performance is centered on a character who witnessed this important event.

Jefferson’s character was 15 in 1955, when Parks refused to give up her seat, and gives the audience a firsthand account of what it was like on the bus.

An account of the trial stemming from Parks’ defiance is also given during the performance. The trial spurred a massive rally of Parks supporters who went on to organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Parks was initially found guilty, but the Supreme Court sided with Parks 13 months later to end segregation on buses.

The performance takes place Nov. 5, 12 and 19 at the Ohio Historical Center at 1892 Velma Rd. There will be two performances each evening, at 7 and 8:30 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and $4 for children.

Jefferson is a native of Columbus. She graduated from Columbus Public Schools and received a master’s degree in black studies and a doctorate in social work from Ohio State. Her first experience in historical storytelling began at the university in a speech class.

She first performed works by Sojourner Truth and expanded to Harriet Tubman. She then began the series “African American Women During the Civil War.”

“People really don’t know the contributions that black women made during that critical period in our time,” Jefferson said. “It’s my pleasure to share that.”

Jefferson works with the Ohio Humanities Council to bring living history across the state and farther. She also works with the Greater Columbus Arts Council to give students the chance to see her performances.

Jefferson performs for K-12 audiences and has found that students enjoy living history. In fact, she is asked to come back to many schools. But sometimes her performance is misleading for younger students.

“I’ve found that if you don’t prepare the elementary students by first letting them see you as a person, they tend to believe that you are that person,” Jefferson said. “They ask, ‘How old are you?'”

Jefferson has found that integrating the arts into the classroom improves students’ ability to relate to history and is a valuable teaching tool.

“We don’t just bring in our art,” she said, “but we also have supplemental activities that are geared to the content standards that teachers must teach in order for students to do well on testing.”

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