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Harriet Tubman: The Underground Railroad Meets Opera

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The story of Harriet Tubman has recently hit the performance arena in New York.

Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line To Freedom,” is an opera written by a third-generation Nigerian-American who practically grew up on the stories of Tubman and The Underground Railroad.

Presented by screenwriter Nkeiru Okoye of American Opera Projects, the opera is a product of three years of research.

Okoye reason behind her extensive research was to accurately portray the details of Tubman’s life as a slave and a liberator.

Tubman is largely remembered throughout history for helping slaves escape to freedom through a system of safe houses and hiding places. As a runaway slave herself, Tubman became labeled as the most notorious conductor in the U.S.

Over time, people have likened her to Moses, a Hebrew character in the bible who led his people to freedom from the Egyptian enslavement of Pharaoh.

So, who wouldn’t want to see the depiction of this woman’s contribution to history on stage?

However, this is not your ordinary opera show. The production will not only portray Tubman’s involvement in The Underground Railroad but also her personal life.

“I think most people like to think of Harriet as a born liberator and it robs them of an important part of the story,” she told Voice America in an Interview. “We don’t get that there’s this vulnerable person who’s there.  We don’t get the full picture.”

Okoye says that the production will incorporate “folk opera”, music rooted in African-American customs. Genres such as gospel and jazz will be heard throughout the show. However, “work songs” and spirituals of that time will bring the opera to life even more.

Okoye hopes to reveal the human-like side of Tubman. Ultimately, she hopes that people come to understand that Tubman’s life was so much more than just being the “Moses” of that time.

Scheduled performances are set for February and March at a historical Underground Railroad station in Fort Greene, N.Y.

Image via Youtube, American Opera Projects

Harriet Tubman: The Underground Railroad Meets Opera
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  • Jay Wiloby

    Harriet Tubman was one of the most courageous individuals in the history of our country.

    BUT! Why didn’t your two articles mention the support of the Quakers? Where would the escaped slaves have found food, shelter and hiding places?

    Was the librettist/creator guilty of this oversight or only the journalists who didn’t provide the full story?