Harriet Tubman comes alive at PECHS

Published 3:08 pm Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Prince Edward County High School students were spellbound as they witnessed “The Spirit of Harriett Tubman,” a one-woman show presented by Diane Faison. The show was sponsored by Longwood University. 

Faison, a native of North Carolina who currently resides in Burlington, was happy to return to Prince Edward where she taught art at the middle school for 20 years.  Her late husband, Claiborne Faison, was a history teacher at the high school. 

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Around 1988, Ms. Faison gave her first performance as Harriett Tubman for her students to celebrate Black History Month. It was from this performance that she learned she could capture the children’s attention and “show” history to the students. Since that time, she has brought Harriett Tubman to life many more times, for all ages. 

“There is no script for this,” she said. “I just feel it.  I change it up every time, depending on the group I am performing for.” 

For the youngest audiences, Faison begins her show by asking the children, “Do you know what a slave is?”  The ensuing discussion sets the background for her performance. 

At PECHS, Faison, as Tubman, entered regally from the back of the auditorium, working her way to the stage as she interacted with her audience.  She started with her birth, and narrated her life from beginning to end. Her brutal portrayal of life as a slave gave students a point of reference that could never be as effective from a textbook.  The word “freedom” resounded throughout the show, as Faison relived Tubman’s involvement with the Underground Railroad. 

At the end of the performance, Faison looked out over the audience, as Tubman, and said, “It’s because of people like me that you are all together here today.” 

Senior Brittany Pride was among the students in attendance. “She was great,” Pride said.  “I learned a lot from her. She was inspirational. I felt like Harriett Tubman was really there. I wish we could see more living history like that.” 

Faison performs “The Spirit of Harriett Tubman for many different venues, including schools, churches and private organizations.  She can be contacted at spiritofharriett@gmail.com.