Archive for February, 2012

Odds & Ends from Ermigal

Article I found is posted below. Here is the link: Odds & Ends from Ermigal


by ermigal in Uncategorizedwriting Tags: Eric WashburnFreeing CharlesFrench Jews WWIIHarriet TubmanSarah’s KeyScott ChristiansonslaveryTatiana de RosnayThe Legacy of Human Property

Last month I saw a moving play written and directed by my friend Eric that was performed in a community theater outside of Albany.

Titled The Legacy of Human Property, it was based on the true story of Charles Nalle, a slave who escaped from Virginia in 1858 and found his way, after two years and with the help of the Underground Railroad, to Averill Park, a small town near Albany. Nalle found work as a teamster, driving a coach for a prominent industrialist in the area.

A local lawyer named Averill  betrayed Nalle (yes, the town was unfortunately named after him) and located his owner. Nalle was arrested while driving the coach, and plans were made to return him to Virginia. By chance, Harriet Tubman was traveling through the area and heard about Nalle’s plight, and a sympathetic crowd of around 1,000 people, black and white, wrested him away from his captors, disguised him in a woman’s bonnet, and sent him to safety across the river.

Folks on the other side were notified by telegraph and recaptured him, after which another benevolent mob brought about his release. A short time later, local businessmen raised $650 to buy his freedom. Nalle left the area after a few years and resettled in the Washington, D. C. area.

Nalle was married and had several children, including a son named John, who became a noted educator. The play revolves around John’s visit to Troy in 1932, where he learned of the extraordinary events surrounding his father more than seventy years before.

Inspired by the book Freeing Charles by Scott Christianson, the play tells a fascinating story and includes noteworthy events, such as John Brown’s speech at his trial; a depiction of Charles Nalle and his wife, Kitty, “jumping the broom;” and a song about John Brown’s wife.

Eric tells me he was intrigued by the mystery of Charles Nalle never having told his son about the dramatic incidents in the Troy area. I, in turn, admire the dedication and drive of those who tell important stories that teach us about the past and challenge us to advocate for others.

I wonder if I am strong enough to have been in Harriet Tubman’s group.

Another person I admire for shining a light on historical events that are generally not well-known is Tatiana de Rosnay, the author of Sarah’s Key. In July, 1942, over 13,000 Jews in Nazi-occupied Paris and its suburbs were deported and assassinated at Auschwitz. This round-up operation was carried out by French police in front of many onlookers.

The yellow star Jews had to wear; this one is in French.

In the story, Sarah is a ten year old girl whose family was taken from their home and held prisoner with thousands of others in a Paris stadium for several days without food or water; she was then separated from her parents who were sent to Auschwitz. On two occasions she was helped by French individuals to first escape from a Paris concentration camp and then survive until the end of the war.

Would I be brave enough to help another person if I were scared myself?

Even though these events happened many years ago, both of these stories hold important truths for us now:

Beware of those who use our differences—spiritual beliefs, skin color, sexual orientation, economic class–to separate us from each other. To make us fear and ostracize those who are different from us. We’re not on earth to squabble, people; we’re here to help each other. Period.

Human nature can be strange; sometimes we reach out to help each other and sometimes we look the other way. Perhaps thinking about these opportunities in advance will give us the strength and courage to stand up for other

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Article I found is posted below. Here is the link: Odds & Ends from Ermigal

Art of History Student Workshop with Mark Priest

Meet Artist Mark Priest at a Special Workshop for High School Artists! 


“The Altruist” Mark Priest, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 7.5′ x 7.5′

Sudent artists are invited to join us on Thursday, February 27, from 5-7 pm for a special gallery talk (and pizza dinner) with artist Mark Priest.  Mark Priest will discuss the inspirations for his work and answer questions about the life of a professional artist.


The workshop is free, however registration is required by February 23 so that we know how much pizza to buy!


About the Art of History Competition


For this competition, we invite students to create artwork inspired by historical documents from the collections of the Rensselaer County Historical Society.  Our topic this year is the early African American experience in Rensselaer County. This slice of American history includes documents such as a powerful letter from an African- American man threatened in the 1863 draft riots in Troy, an 1824 estate inventory listing enslaved persons as property, and a newspaper account of the rescue of fugitive slave Charles Nalle in 1860.

Students may work in the medium of their choice (see guidelines). Their work may be illustrative of a particular image from one of the documents, or it may capture a more abstract response to the documents.  We ask that students submit an artist’s statement along with their entry, reflecting on their artistic choices and the primary source documents that inspired them.

Student work will be judged by a three-person panel of art and history experts.  Works will be judged on artistic merit and use of historical source material.  The first prize is a $100 scholarship, (second and third prizes to be announced).  All student work will be exhibited at the Rensselaer County Historical Society from April 24 – June 19, 2010. All students entering the competition – and their mentor teachers – will also receive a family membership to RCHS ($60 value).  Winners will be announced at the reception to celebrate the opening of our exhibition of student work on the afternoon of Saturday, April 24, 2010.  All participating teachers, students, and families are invited!


For more information, go to

Have questions about Art of History Student Workshop with Mark Priest? Contact Rensselaer County Historical Society

Getting it Right

original shapeimage_2-1With the help of Kate Larson, noted historian and author of“Bound for the Promised   Land: Harriet Tubman Portrait of an American Hero” a must read for any who want to get a wonderfully clear picture of the life of Tubman, I am making some important corrections  some of my work. Here is an important alteration in process.  In the pshapeimage_2ainting, “The Auction”, Kessiah Boley is on the  auction block clinging to her two children. I originally painted them both as young children around the ages of 3 and 6. Actually her daughter was an infant and her son was 6 years old