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