About No Strangers Here Today
My Quaker great-great Grandmother, Elizabeth Conard Edwards, kept a diary during the Civil War, from January-July 1864, a litany of daily life on a farm in southern Ohio, fifty miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line. When I discovered this tiny treasure, history became personal.
Coded diary entries, referring to strangers (Quakers called fugitives from slavery travelers and strangers) indicate that she and her family were a link in the Underground Railroad, the mysterious, clandestine network between free blacks, Quakers, and anti-slavery abolitionists. At great personal risk, this bi-racial grassroots resistance movement, which began in the 1700's and operated until the end of the Civil War, pushed the cause of freedom for the four million enslaved African Americans to the center of national policy.
No Strangers Here Today is a 70-minute performance work which tells the story of these times. through images, spoken word, music and movement. Elizabeth Edwards' diary entries are the heartbeat of the story, evoking imaginative detail of place and time, her motherly concern for her son, a soldier in the Union Army, and the quietly coded references to her political and spiritual activism. Primary family documents, memories, and historical research are woven together with elegant music and movement compositions to create a lively, expressive record of this powerful period in American history.
Early doctrine of the Society of Friends is clear. Friends opposed "The binding character of authority," declared that war was "incompatible with Christian spirit" and that "slavery must be eradicated." No Strangers Here Today is a call to end conflict and aggression against people of color nationally and internationally and connects the dots, as the Quakers did then and now, between war, power, and oppression.
- Susan Banyas