Shawnee College hosts special presentation for Black History Month
Shawnee Community College near Ullin celebrated Black History Month Feb. 25 by hosting a presentation featuring Marlene Rivero.
Rivero is a storyteller and living history artist who portrays Ann Stokes. Stokes is believed to have been the first pensioned African American woman to serve aboard a U.S. Navy military vessel.
Rivero's depiction reveals Stoke’s life from an enslaved woman before the Civil War to a volunteer nurse during the war on the first Union Naval hospital ship, the USN Red Rover, which was stationed out of Mound City.
Clothed in period attire, Rivero shared songs and stories from the Civil War Era including the difficulties faced by African Americans during that period.
Students from around the area attended the cultural event, along with college faculty members, administrators and community members.
Community members in attendance included Richard Grigsby, founder of the Alexander/Pulaski County NAACP chapter, and Mounds African American Museum founder Willie Eason.
The story focused on the importance education played in the life of Ann Stokes, who after having friends file for a Navy pension on multiple occasions only to be denied, made the decision to learn to read and write well enough to write her own appeal.
Finally, after many years of struggle, Stokes' pension was approved.
After the presentation, those in attendance were given an opportunity to ask Rivero questions. She provided a detailed response with historical narrative.