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The United States Army commissioned State of Grace to create a commemorative work for the 400th anniversary of the discovery of Point Comfort and Fort Monroe, also known as "Freedom's Fortress".
"Kettle Prayers" interwove and depicted three significant, but little known, fragments of African-American history:
*The story of the arrival of the first recorded slave to the United States to Point Comfort;
*The story of how freedom from slavery began at "Freedom's Fortress" (Fort Monroe);
*And the story of the slave practice of secretly praying under kettles for freedom.
Taking excerpts from the script and dance, we have created a slideshow to share this remarkable, emotional, and spiritual story.
Scenes from "Kettle Prayers"
Debut performance at Fort Monroe
Freedom Fortress' 400th Anniversary Celebration
~ The Bethel Temple Connection to Fort Monroe + The Story of Freedom From Slavery ~
First, a little background history from a New York Times article . . .
On May 23, 1861, three enslaved Virginians named Frank Baker, Shepard Mallory and James Townsend fled from their master, a Confederate colonel who had put them to work building rebel fortifications, and sought protection at the Union-held citadel (of Fort Monroe). When their owner asked for the return of his “property” under fugitive-slave laws, Union Gen. Benjamin F. Butler declared the three men “contraband of war,” classifying them as captured goods being used for military purposes by the enemy and thus subject to legitimate seizure.
Within days, dozens and then hundreds more African Americans came for safe harbor within what they soon began calling “Freedom’s Fortress,” and Butler’s decision was soon ratified as official policy by Congress and the Lincoln administration. Soon, these refugees, known as “contrabands,” were contributing to the Union cause in myriad ways, sometimes even joining the federal troops in battle. Before the Emancipation Proclamation took effect a year and a half later, tens or even hundreds of thousands of fugitives had escaped bondage throughout the South, and even many conservative whites had come to accept that slavery’s days were numbered.
(Click HERE to read the entire New York Times article on the history and future of Fort Monroe.)
And here is how Bethel Temple is connected to this incredible story.
It just so happens that Bethel Temple sits on the very site of the old plantation where the three slaves --
Frank Baker, Shepard Mallory and James Townsend -- fled from their Confederate master to make their way to Fort Monroe.
It also happens that the Virginia branch of The State of Grace Fellowship is comprised primarily of dancers that attend Bethel Temple Church. Bethel Temple has graciously hosted State of Grace for all its rehearsals for Virginia-based performances.
In addition to performing "Kettle Prayers" at Freedom's Fortress, we were honored to present the piece in this wonderful church that holds such a historic connection to Fort Monroe and the story of the Contraband Slaves.
State of Grace Fellowship Tech Rehearsal
of Kettle Prayers
for Fourth of July Celebration
at Bethel Temple in 2010
To learn more about the secret "kettle prayers" of African American slaves
please click on the KETTLE photo below.
To hear the soundtrack + script / narration of Kettle Prayers,
please click the PLAY button.
To learn more about Fort Monroe / Freedom's Fortress
please click on "ANGELA".
The music for "Kettle Prayers" was graciously released to us by
From the soundtrack of "Blood Diamond"
Composed by Thomas Newton Howard
Special Arrangement of
"Wayfarin' Stranger" + "Steal Away"
Composed by Joseph Ninowski Jr.
Tuwana Kemp (soloist)
Amalaneze "Mal" Herron
Arthur Dyer (soloist)
Script by Connie Taylor Krupp
Narration by Takesha Stoll (our "Angela")
and Connie Taylor Krupp