Gamut Theatre honors Black History Month with ‘Voices of the Eighth’ this weekend

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February may be the year’s shortest month, but it’s one of the year’s most important.

February is honored as Black History Month, and Dauphin County is commemorating with an original artistic production honoring the area’s rich history and ties to the abolitionist movement.

In partnership with Dauphin County Commissioners Jeff Haste, Mike Pries and George P. Hartwick, III, Sankofa African American Theatre Company will present the original play Voices of the Eighth 20/20: Rhythms of Resilience, at Gamut Theatre this weekend.

Performances will run Friday, Feb. 7 and Saturday, Feb. 8 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 9 at 2:30 p.m.


Voices of the Eighth features real-life stories from the late 1700s through 1925 in Harrisburg’s historic Old Eighth Ward, which is now home to the state’s Capitol Complex.

The production explores the lives of Anne E. Amos (1824-1911), abolitionist and suffragist who was instrumental in the founding of Wesley Union AME, and Esther Popel (1896-1958), the first African American woman to attend Dickinson College and noted poet during the Harlem Renaissance.

Audiences will also be introduced to several other abolitionists, suffragists, and poets who were instrumental in fighting for the freedom and rights that we enjoy today, like the story of Jacob T. Compton, a pastor who drove future President Lincoln’s carriage during his visit to Harrisburg and disrupted an assassination attempt against the President-Elect before he was sworn into office.

The original production was written by Sankofa’s Founder and Executive Artistic Director Sharia Benn based on research conducted by historians at Messiah College and includes music, projected photos from the time period, and original poetry written by students from Harrisburg High School – Sci Tech Campus.

Voices of the Eighth is a heartwarming journey through which the young and old, past and present, and gone but not forgotten connect to celebrate the history making contributions of African Americans who lived in the Old Eighth Ward,” said Benn.

While the story honors the area’s past, the presentation also celebrates the Commonwealth Monument, a historical landmark commemorating the Old Eighth Ward that is slated for completion in 2020.

Each performance concludes with a talk-back discussion with audience members who wish to learn more about the production and our local history.

“This program not only brings history to life but also features local talent and work by students in the Harrisburg School District,” said Commissioner Pries. “It’s a chance for us to see how far we have all come and how far we have to go to bring about positive change.”


About Sankofa Theatre

Sankofa African American Theatre Company was founded to engage and enrich the Harrisburg region around the African American perspective on issues through thought-provoking theatre that reflects artistic excellence. The company teamed with Open Stage in last February to produce for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf

Tickets are $19. For more information, please visit Gamut Theatre’s website.

Sara Bozich
Author: Sara Bozich

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