The Many Faces of Ms. Sheila!






                                  Ol’ Bess                                                                                          Fannie Lou Hamer                                                                      Oney Judge 

historical characters brought to life! 

At her core, Ms. Sheila, , is a Professional Imaginator with a passion, vision and ministry of healing hearts, unifying communities and reminding people to share their stories.  Through stories of enslaved persons, Biblical characters, business women, teachers, activists and survivors she truly brings history to life! 


Thank you so much for speaking to the 8th grade today.  One thing I learned today that I didn’t know before was that the slaves each and everyone were true survivors with lots of personality and emotion.  Betsy seemed so real!  For a minute I thought I traveled to the past and met Betsy. Her emotions felt so real, and raw!  Although you told the crowd that Peter is never found, I wish to believe they found each other in heaven or somewhere.  Sincerely, M. Rodriquez, Liberty Middle School, Camas, WA April 2024

Your performance of Oney Judge at La Entrada school last week took my breath away and moved me, and many others, to tears. What a powerful way to teach children (and adults) about real people’s  lives in history! I will not soon forget this meaningful performance. I felt like I was watching a show on Broadway. It was that good! It really touched me.
–  Vicki Berger, La Entrada School, May 2019  

Madam C. J. Walker 




Finding Ona Judge’s Voice

A Podcast with Sheila Arnold from Mount Vernon 

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Historic Character Interpretations


These presentations are usually 30 – 45 minutes in length, with 15 – 20 minutes of Q&A with students.


Ol’ Bess – 18th-century tavern slave

Ol’ Bess, a slave owned by Mr. Southall, owner of the Raleigh Tavern.  She has a husband and 4 children and shares some of the things happening in the colony in 1774 including the dissolution of the House of Burgesses, the beginning talks of revolution and the tragedies that occurred in Boston Harbor.  She also shares about her life and the ways she has learned to survive as a slave.


Oney Judge – 18th-century Free Woman; Past personal maidservant to Martha Washington

Oney Judge was the personal maidservant to Martha Washington from the time George Washington was elected to attend the Continental Congress until the end of his 2nd term of presidency.  Oney has the infamous reputation of being one of the ones that “ran away” from Philadelphia, PA right before the end of President Washington’s term as President.  We meet Oney in the latter parts of her life where she talks about her life with the Washingtons, her home life and upbringing, her run for freedom, her attempt to negotiate with the first President of the United States and her new life as a Free Negro.


“A Conversation with Oney Judge” – Reversing Interpretation

Looking “behind-the-scenes” is always fascinating for people.  This presentation shows how an Historic Character Presentation can be done “in reverse” and be a) effective for younger ages, and b) a way to revitalize and capture the imagination of adults. However, character interpretation is not the only focus here, because this “behind-the-scenes” type of program can be modified for all types of interpretation.  Appropriate for all ages. 


African-American US History:  1600’s to Colonial/Civil War Workshop for Students

Using participatory activities, students (and teachers) get to learn about African-American History.  Some of the questions to be answered:  “Why were Africans made slaves?”  “When did slavery begin?”  “What was the life of a slave like?”  “How much did a slave cost?”  “Were some African-American people free during the colonial era?  How did that happen?”  Dependent on time, there will also be discussions on African-American inventors, participation in the Revolutionary War and Civil War, abolitionists and the Underground Railroad.  Students are encouraged to walk in the shoes and look through the eyes of people from a different era, and to find relevance in how we treat people today.  (1.5 hours to a full day, with appropriate breaks; Grades 4 and above)


Madam C.J. Walker – post-Civil War and early 20th century, 1st Negro female millionaire

Madam CJ Walker was the first African-American female millionaire in the early 1900’s.  She was the marketer for various popular hair care products many of which are still used today, and many of the students will relate to that.  She talks about her life, her business and its challenges and her determined fight against segregation and the need for the economic development of ALL people. Note:  This program must be requested three months in advance of the performance date. 


Zora Neale Hurston – 20th-century Harlem Renaissance African-American author

Learn about the Harlem Renaissance through the eyes of one who was “in the thick of things”.  She will also talk about her time collecting “old” stories from Negro communities and her brief time in the world of voodoo and intrigue.  This author of “Of Mules and Men” and “Their Eyes Were Watching God” shares about “The New Negro” and his/her struggles of the early 20th century. 


Fannie Lou Hamer – “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired”

Fannie Lou Hamer was an American voting rights activist and  civil rights leader.  She was instrumental in organizing Mississippi Freedom Summer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and later became the Vice-Chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, attending the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City , New Jersey, in that capacity. Her plain-spoken manner and fervent belief in the Biblical righteousness of her cause gained her a reputation as an electrifying speaker and constant champion of civil rights.  From her days as a sharecropper to her violent entrance into being a full-citizen in the country, her story will charge students to stand and become active in our government and the causes of those neglected and overlooked.


Note:  If there are particular areas/subjects which educators want discussed, we can look at a different Historical Character or modifying the presentation of above-mentioned characters.