MLK Day: Telling the story

by Alicia Anstead

If you haven't decided how you might honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on this national holiday, consider attending a performance of Lydia R. Diamond's play "Harriet Jacobs," produced by the Underground Railroad Theater in residence at Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Ave. The show runs through Jan. 31.

Inspired by Jacobs' true-life story "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl," published in Boston in 1861, Diamond has crafted a narrative about the horrors that send a young black woman first into hiding for seven years in the crawl space above her grandmother's storeroom in North Carolina and then to freedom in the north. The all-black ensemble tells a poignant story through the lens of Jacobs' vision, both the trauma of slave life and the glories of reading, humor, love, family and freedom.

After the war, Jacobs spent several years in Cambridge, renting a place on Trowbridge Street where she ran a boardinghouse, and later living in a house on the corner of Mount Auburn and Story Streets. She is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery where her tombstone reads: "Patient in tribulation, fervent in spirit serving the Lord."

An obstinate amnesia sometimes blinds us to the harshest resonances of our shared history. But the arts, visionary leaders and national holidays, such as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, remind us that we have a dream as a nation, that all people are created equal, and that only in true equality can freedom ring.

Read about "Harriet Jacobs" and find out about tickets here:

Listen/watch Timothy Patrick McCarthy, of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, talk with playwright Lydia R. Diamond here: \"Harriet Jacobs\" courtesy of Central Square Theater


[Caption: Kami Smith as Harriet Jacobs. PHOTO by Elizabeth Stewart]

[Caption: Harriet Jacobs]