Lonely and bored with rural life in 1856, young Bella Lee Dunkinson began to hang around the local railroad. Engineer John Hardiman took a liking to the spirited girl and gave her a boy's responsibilities helping with the engine. One stormy night, the engine was slipping dangerously on wet rails. While John was putting sand on the tracks, Bella found herself alone in the cab driving the train up a steep and dangerous mountainsideÑa 16-year-old female faced with a task that would terrify any seasoned male engineer. After her heroic and triumphant climb to the mountaintop, she was hailed by the miners who met her there as the "Belle of the Mines and Mountains."
Slavery in the United States became illegal in the 1860s. Before that, many slaves found their way north by following the Big Dipper, or the Drinking Gourd as they called it. Our story begins in 1880 with Old Ellie and Old Sam, two escaped slaves who share their brave story along the path to freedom called the Underground Railroad.
Most people take it for granted: riding a bike. In the late 1800s, the bicycle first came to the United States from Europe. This new "steel horse" was wildly popular. But for women, who either worked in factories or stayed at home, the bicycle liberated them like nothing ever has. One two-wheeled invention changed fashion, opened doors, and led to a movement in women's rights still felt today.
In the early 1800s, white settlers and missionaries were intent on bringing the English language to the illiterate Native Americans. Sequoyah was intrigued by these leaves of paper with strange marks that talked. Doing what no one had ever done before, Sequoyah set about creating a written Cherokee language—helping preserve the tribe's history and culture even today.
In 1845, Frederick Douglass’s first autobiography became a bestseller. Many readers could not believe that such a brilliant writer was ever a slave. When Douglass wrote the book, slavery had not yet ended so he kept secret how he escaped from Maryland. By 1881, the Civil War had ended slavery and Douglass felt the time was right to reveal how he escaped. This play is adapted from Douglass’s own words from The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.
In 1807 at the age of 13, Brenton Dixon lived in Albany, New York, and expected to become a blacksmith's apprentice. Then one day he and his friends saw something strange out on the Hudson River, approaching from downstream. Many were sure that it was a fire-breathing monster and the sight created havoc on shore and on the water. It was Robert Fulton's pioneering steamboat the Clermont, making its maiden voyage from New York City to Albany.
The 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln was killed by an assassin’s bullet on April 15, 1865. Lincoln preserved the union of the nation, but after the Civil War he struggled with Congress and the people over Reconstruction. Despite the war and political strife, Lincoln’s life and legacy touched the hearts and souls of millions then as it does today. This play draws from the writings of many of those people and from Lincoln himself.