Archive for Thursday, December 6, 2007

Bringing history to life

December 6, 2007

Although Ellen Ferguson says, by nature, she's quite shy, the longtime Lansing resident had no qualms about volunteering to perform tomorrow at the County's Christmas Open House, which will feature re-enactments of 15 different figures from Leavenworth's history.

"I make myself do a lot of things, and then afterward I'm like, 'I made it. I made it,'" Ferguson said of her self-professed stage fright. "One lady told me to just look over the people's heads in the audience."

Tomorrow, Ferguson will portray Lizzie Allen, a black woman who, at the age of 20, shook hands with Abraham Lincoln after he gave a speech in Leavenworth in 1859.

She's been practicing since October, participating in three day-long workshops, but Ferguson said she's still a little nervous.

This is not the first time, though, that Ferguson has been part of a historical performance.

She has also portrayed Sojourner Truth, an American abolitionist, Harriet Tubman, who coordinated the Underground Railroad, and Barbara Jordan, a former Texas congresswoman, at local schools, the Leavenworth public library and even for young men at the Atchison Juvenile Correctional Facility.

"I only pick out people I really admire," Ferguson said of the performances.

She selected Lizzie Allen after a little prodding from Phyllis Bass, director of the Richard Allen Cultural Center, and has researched the former Leavenworth resident using personal interviews and a newspaper clipping from 1939.

Besides acting occasionally, she's been a Sunday school teacher for about 30 years at the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Leavenworth.

She has gained acclaim baking cakes for church functions and said she receives constant requests to bake birthday, anniversary or wedding cakes from parishioners and others.

"My advice to people is to stay busy," Ferguson said of her busy life. "You kind of decay a little bit if you don't."

NAME: Ellen Ferguson

ADDRESS: 319 Highland Rd.

OCCUPATION: Retired

FAMILY: Wilbur, husband; Tracie, daughter; Timothy, son; Pamela, daughter; Daniel, son; and four grandchildren.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU LIVED IN LANSING, AND WHAT BROUGHT YOU HERE? "We came here in 1978 : I was born in Leavenworth. My husband was in the military, so we moved around and came back (to Lansing) in 1978."

WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT LANSING? "Lansing is a quiet, laid back area, and you're not far from the city."

WHAT DO YOU DO FOR FUN? "I like listening to music, reading, poetry and acting."

WHAT MIGHT SURPRISE PEOPLE ABOUT YOU? "That I'm shy : basically an introvert."

WHAT'S THE BEST ADVICE YOU'VE EVER RECEIVED? "If you can't say something nice about a person, don't say anything at all."

WHAT CLUBS OR ORGANIZATIONS DO YOU BELONG TO? Bethel AME Church, Arts in Motion (AIM) Club

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