Hilton Head Island is home to Mitchelville, a village where African Americans established their own first community as free people 150 years ago. As the first self-governed freedmen’s town in America, Mitchelville is hugely significant in the story of our nation’s long evolution toward its own ideals.
Preserving the site, the memory and the lessons of Mitchelville has been a vital project here, and on Saturday, October 13 an evening of drama and song will celebrate its progress – and provide funds for important next steps. “Fa Be Free” draws its title from the treasured Gullah language, preserved by 100 years of isolation on the Sea Islands.
The one-night-only presentation features the Natalie Daise one-woman
show, Becoming Harriet Tubman. Fresh from Charleston’s prestigious Spoleto arts festival, where the play received an A+ rating from Charleston City Paper, Daise brings to life the legendary woman who overcame slavery, abuse and illiteracy to become known as the “Moses” or “Conductor” of the Underground Railroad. Besides ushering hundreds of people to their freedom, Ms. Tubman was a nurse and war spy for the Union Army.
It’s been said that, “The story of Mitchelville is a story of community and love.” The Harriet Tubman story embodies the love, strength, striving and sacrifice that so often are mentioned when people here recall Mitchelville. We are fortunate indeed that Natalie Daise is making her performance a centerpiece of “Fa Be Free.”
Music for the evening is equally fitting, with pianist and songwriter Lavon Stevens performing his uncanny feel for jazz, gospel and R&B. Onstage too will be Hilton Head High School’s excellent choir, Out Of The Blue, directed by Larry Mercer.
“Fa Be Free” takes place at 6 p.m., Saturday October 13, at the Hilton Head Island High School Performing Arts Center, one of the best-equipped theaters in the region, at 70 Wilborn Road. Tickets are at Burke’s Main Street Pharmacy, 1101 Main Street, at all four Coastal State Bank branches and online at www.MitchelvillePreservationProject.org/Freedom .
While you’re here take time to see where this essential history was made. A
new visitor kiosk and self-guided tour are there, at Fish Haul Creek Park, 229 Beach City Road on the north end of Hilton Head Island.
The story of Mitchelville is a spiritual story. There’s no substitute for walking the ground and breathing that story in. It’s become a focus for family reunions and genealogy research. And that’s not the only way that you’ll be in good company. The BBC recently produced a documentary of one family’s pilgrimage to this place.
In a larger sense this is a story not to be missed by any American. Here on Hilton Head Island,people who had seen freedom all around them at last had a place of their own in which to experience it for themselves. What we see, learn and feel at Mitchelville surely enriches our lives. Do come.