The Tony, Grammy and Emmy Award-winning actor Andre De Shields will bring his play about abolitionist Frederick Douglass to Flushing Town Hall, in Queens, N.Y., tomorrow, on the 157th anniversary Douglass appeared there in 1865.
On June 19—today celebrated as Juneteenth, the day in 1865 enslaved people in Texas were proclaimed free, made a federal holiday last year—Douglass delivered a speech in Flushing called “The Past and Present,” in which, the venue said, “he addressed the role of African-Americans in antebellum America.”
“Though Douglass began his life as a slave, through heroic effort, he became one of America’s most important and historically influential icons,” said De Shields, whose play is called Andre De Shields Is Frederick Douglass: Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory.
The actor won Tony, Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk and Grammy Awards for his performance as Hermes, messenger to the gods, in Hadestown. He was also nominated for a Tony Award in the original Broadway productions of The Full Monty and, Play On!, for an Emmy award for his performance in Ain’t Misbehavin’ and also appeared in the title role of The Wiz.
The Flushing Town Hall performances will open with a gospel Juneteenth presentation by Chuk Fowler and Company, which, Town Hall said, “willl invite audiences to reflect on the significance of Juneteenth with images, words, and songs, including the hymn, ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ — more commonly known as the ‘Black National Anthem.’”
Harlem-born Fowler won the Apollo Theater’s amateur night twice, later performing in nightclubs, theaters and hotels, and also taught music in New York public schools.
A Smithsonian affiliate, Flushing Town Hall presents multi-disciplinary global arts that it says “engage and educate the global communities of Queens and New York City in order to foster mutual appreciation, (supporting) local, immigrant, national and international artists, developing partnerships and collaborations that enhance our efforts”
It is also a member of New York’s Cultural Institutions Group, which it describes as “a collective of 34 nonprofit museums, performing arts centers, historical societies, zoos and botanical gardens across all five boroughs with a distinct private-public partnership with the City of New York and a commitment to serving all New Yorkers.”