The Many Faces of Ms. Sheila!






                                  Ol’ Bess                                                                                          Fanny 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 slaves, servants, Biblical characters, business women, teachers, activists and survivors she truly brings history to life! 


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 

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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.


Mary Johnson – wife of Anthony Johnson, slave, indentured servant to free Negro and landowner,  17th-century

Mary Johnson, wife of Anthony Johnson, one of the first Negroes to arrive on these shores, who went from slave to indentured servant to free man.  Mary tells the stories she has often heard from her husband about coming to Jamestown, about the bloody Middle Plantation massacre and the movement from indentured servitude in the country to slavery.  It also just so happens that Mary Johnson and her husband end up settling MD’s Eastern Shore in the middle 1600’s. 


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. 


Still’s Underground Railroad”

William Still, a prominent Conductor of the Pennsylvania Underground Railroad, wrote the definitive book about the lives of persons “stealing themselves” away to freedom.  Some stories are familiar – Harriet Tubman, “Boxcar” Brown and Ellen Craft.  However, other stories are new, compelling and shed light on family separation, education and various ways used to runaway.  Students will learn from a member of the Still family about William Still, participate in an interactive activity with one of the “familiar” runaways and hear about abolitionists.  Many of the runways discussed in William Still’s book are from Virginia and stories will be shared as much as possible from the school’s town, city, county or surrounding area – making the people come “home” and alive.  William Still’s Underground Railroad is available free online and teachers can use it for pre- and post-activities with students.  Appropriate for any grades who have begun to learn about the Underground Railroad.


Betsy Costner- 19th-century pre- or post-Civil War slave

Betsy Costner is a slave who was born in North Carolina, but during the “second Middle Passage” is moved without her family to Alabama.  She either talks from a pre-Civil War view about her daily life, relationships with free Negroes and whites in Alabama and the runaways and abolitionists she has heard about.  Or, Betsy talks from a post-Civil War view about the Civil War itself and the destruction to where she was living, her search for her son, her desire to go North and this “new thing called freedom”.


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. 


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. Daisy Bates – Arkansas NAACP President.  She was the backbone of the “Little Rock Nine”.  Hear the story of this woman determined to help integrate the Little Rock, AR schools and the severe opposition she, and the students, were subjected to.  She talks about her life before becoming NAACP president, atrocities she had seen committed, her relationship with Thurgood Marshall, and the infamous 1957 – 58 year when Central High School, Little Rock, AR was to be integrated and the Federal Troops were called in by President Eisenhower.


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.






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