Harriet Tubman focus of Dover program

DOVER — In celebration of National Harriet Tubman Day, actress Millicent Sparks will bring to life the noted Underground Railroad conductor who helped dozens of enslaved African Americans escape to freedom prior to the American Civil War.

Millicent Sparks as Harriet Tubman.

The program will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at The Old State House, located at 25 The Green in Dover. Admission is free and open to the public but, due to space restrictions, reservations are suggested by calling 302-744-5054. The museum will also be open for visitation and tours from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Harriet Tubman was born in 1822 as a slave in Dorchester County, Md. After escaping her own chains, she returned to the South on 13 missions, helping more than 70 family members, friends and other enslaved people make their way to freedom.

During the Civil War, she served as a spy, recruiter and nurse for the Union Army and was the first woman to lead an armed expedition during the war as part of the 1863 raid along the Combahee River in South Carolina which freed more than 700 slaves. After service in the conflict, Tubman returned to her home in Auburn, N.Y. In her later years, she fought for women’s rights but did not live to see women attain the right to vote. She died in 1913.

Ms. Sparks is an accomplished actor/writer/producer who has performed on local, regional and international stages and in film and on television. A lifelong history buff, she has researched and produced several living-history performances with special emphasis on the African American experience.

As part of her portrayal of Harriet Tubman at The Old State House, Ms. Sparks will interact with the audience, responding in character to questions about the abolitionist’s life in slavery, the Underground Railroad and the Civil War.

Completed in 1791, The Old State House is one of the earliest capitol buildings in the nation, serving as the home of Delaware’s legislature until 1933 when the General Assembly moved to larger quarters in Legislative Hall.

The venerable structure now appears as it would have in the late 1700s during the United States’ critical early years as an independent country. It features a courtroom, governor’s and county offices and chambers for the state’s Senate and House of Representatives.

The building is situated on Dover’s historic Green, a public area designated by William Penn in 1683. The Green is a partner site of the First State National Historical Park.