Arts & Culture

Discover All Things Regional in Central PA’s art and culture scene. Join hosts Cary Burkett and Joe Ulrich as they make artistic discoveries throughout the midstate. From music and visual arts to theatre, museums, literature and more! Listen every Wednesday and Friday on witf 89.5 and 93.3 for features highlighting the best and brightest cultural happenings in the region.

Play Explores the Role of the Susquehanna River in the Underground Railroad

Written by Cary Burkett, Arts & Culture Desk and WITF Host | Sep 11, 2014 11:53 AM



Dr. Dorothy King is assistant professor of sociology at Penn State Harrisburg, and the founder of PennOwl Productions in Harrisburg. For sixteen years PenOwl Productions has produced an original play on Martin Luther King Day. The plays explore different aspects of African-American heritage.

In 2008, Dr. King decided to tell the story of how the Susquehanna River was used as part of the Underground Railroad to help slaves escape to freedom.  

Along with Cathie McCormack, a friend and fellow professor, Dr. King travelled through the counties along the Susquehanna, collecting and documenting stories related to the Underground Railroad.

The result was the play, Susquehanna To Freedom. Based on true events, it tells the story of three slaves as they make their way up the Susquehanna on their way to Canada. Historical figures are part of the play, such as Harrisburg native Joseph Bustill, portrayed by actor David Payne.

Bustill was a schoolteacher in the Harrisburg African-American community. His letters to abolitionist leader William Still in Philadelphia show that he had a deep involvement in the Underground Railroad, risking his own freedom to help escaping slaves on their way north.   

Susquehanna To Freedom will be presented at York College on September 20. The performance begins at 7 p.m. in DeMeester Recital Hall, Evelyn and Earle Wolf Hall. A reception will begin at 6 p.m. in the lobby. Both reception and performance are free. For reservations and more information, contact PenOwl Productions at 717-525-9505.

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