Sam Adams history team wins state title
Published 4:43 pm Friday, May 8, 2015
The Sam Adams Elementary fifth grade history team of Collin Bogue, Kennedy Brooks, Anna Leach, Keith Porter and Kendon Williams took first place in the Youth Group Performance Category for the their play, “The Legacy of Nathan and Pamela Thomas” at Michigan History Day Saturday.
Sam Adams was also the state champions in 2014.
It also received a special award for the Best Entry in African American/People of African Descent World History (sponsored by Hispanic Latino Commission of Michigan in Partnership with Lansing Area Sister Cities Commission).
Dynisha Hackworth, a Ross Beatty Jr./Sr. High student, created a documentary, “Lucie and Thornton Blackburn,” and will travel to Washington, D.C. for the national competition.
The Thorntons were also freedom-seekers from Kentucky who managed to escape to Detroit, and lived there for a couple years, establishing themselves among Detroit’s African American society. In 1833, the Blackburns were recognized by someone who knew them from Kentucky and the sheriff was forced to arrest them. Two of Lucie’s friends obtained permission to visit her in jail. One of them bravely changed clothes with her, allowing Lucie to escape. When Thornton was about to be transported back south, Detroit’s black population rioted, allowing him to escape. The Blackburns established themselves in Toronto and became very successful.
The history team based its play on a story told by Nancy Rafferty, a docent at the Underground Railroad House (the preserved home of Nathan and Pamela Thomas) in Schoolcraft. The story was a bout a young family of freedom-seekers who became separated when the husband allowed himself to be captured so that his wife and baby could escape. With the help of a young boy, he escaped from his captor.
Traveling separately, not knowing if they would see each other again, the freedom-seekers made their way through Cass County (likely on the Quaker line of the Underground Railroad) to arrive at the Thomas home. Nathan Thomas was a conductor and also the only doctor in Schoolcraft. He considered himself blessed to be able to treat the husband’s leg and reunite the family. Volunteer coach Ruth Andrews helped the team develop their script and hone their play.
Over 470 elementary, middle and high school students competed for state honors on at DeWitt High School in DeWitt. Local Michigan History Day Coordinators Felomina Patton and Ruth Andrews wish to thank the many individuals and organizations who supported the students’ efforts.