Gwendolyn Quezaire-Presutti

 Living History Artist

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Gwendolyn is dedicated to studying the character, philosophy, courage and grace that have helped black American women survive and flourish.

"Gwendolyn's re-enactment was compelling for its aura of authenticity. We believe that her insistence on verifying the facts through her own research of primary sources contributed to her ability to recreate the era so effectively. She was an arresting presence in her period gown as she took us to the time and let us be witness to the events.,"

- Vivian Papson, Program Chairperson NCURHA

Home Programs Videos About Gwendolyn  Venues Reviews Links Contact

Venues in New England outside Connecticut can now apply for funding for Qwendolyn’s presentations through the

New England States Touring Grants program

of the New England Foundation for the Arts.

 If I Am Not for Myself Who Will Be for Me   During the fall of 1796, George Washington’s final months in office, Oney Judge Staines, a slave, escaped the Executive Mansion in Philadelphia.  There is always an underside - hidden from sight the more unpleasant or reprehensible side that needs to surface to give an integral portrait of a historical event or person. Oney’s story is one such story. Her voice provides the informative accounts needed to appreciate her struggles, self-determination and triumphs of her life. Her account was not a stereotypical runaway account.

1790 - The black population of the United States totals: 757,181. Of this number, 59,557 are free and 697,624 are held in slavery. (Austin TX in 2005 population 690,252)

At the time of George Washington’s death, the Mount Vernon estate’s enslaved population consisted of 317 people – in 1799

Habit of Survival    What was it like to be an enslaved person? Ruth provides an unflinching portrait of her kidnaping, horrors of the Middle Passage and escapes. Ruth’s story is a composite gleaned from slave narratives, Captains log books, doctors’ aboard slave ships and slave owners. This thirty to forty-five minute (parts are participatory) program is the story of American slavery and of the people whose loss of liberty under its yoke.   It is the story of an African becoming African American under unimaginably oppressive and inhumane conditions, told in their words.   

Targeted audience 5th too adult.

Note: Ruth is a composite character modeled on historical and biographical figures.

I Can’t Die but Once   Harriet Tubman a woman of unique qualities and abilities even though she was illiterate, maintained an unblemished record of vigilance, legacy of sacrifice and struggle.  Harriet Tubman weaves a tale of truth, pain; courage and determination that take the audience into her life - enslaved - eventual escape and the United States Government soliciting her unique talent - evading capture behind enemy lines. They enlisted her as a scout and spy for the Union cause and she battled courageously behind enemy lines during the Civil War.  The elementary school version may be more palatable, but the real Tubman is far more inspiring.

1807 – The DeWolf family ships an estimated 2,000 Africans to Charleston, South Carolina, in just seven months.

1810- The black population of the United States totals 1,377,808.  Of this number, 186,466 are free and 1,191,362 are held in slavery. (Dallas TX population in 2010 – 1,197,816)  

1820 -The total population of the United States 9,638,453, of which 1,538,022 were slaves.

Looking Things Over       Zora Neale Hurston considered one of the pre-eminent writers of twentieth-century African-American literature, an American novelist, short story writer, folklorist, and anthropologist. After going to Florida in 1927 to collect folklore, and after years of organizing her notes published Mules and Men in 1935.  Zora, not only did she love writing the folklores she enjoyed telling them.   Zora celebrated the African American culture of the rural South, because she believed that black people had wonderful stories that the world needed to hear and she told them proudly.  


The nucleus of the movement included Jean Toomer, Langston Hughes, Rudolf Fisher, Wallace Thurman, Jessie Redmon Fauset, Nella Larsen, Arna Bontemps, Countee Cullen, and Zora Neale Hurston.

1891 – Zora Neale Hurston born.

1903 – Maggie Lena Walker of Richmond Virginia became the first African American woman in America to own and operate a bank.