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Harriet Tubman | Speakers

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Douglas V. Armstrong, Ph.D., is a professor of anthropology at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. His current research focuses on the Harriet Tubman National Landmark in Auburn, which follows up on his interest in sites and people engaged in social reform in the region during the 19th century. He has directed a series of archaeological excavations and surveys on property that was owned by Tubman from 1859 until her death in 1913, including John Brown Hall, the dormitory/infirmary at Tubman’s “Home for the Aged;” Tubman’s residence and a brick kiln feature on her property; and other significant ruins of the 32-acre Harriet Tubman Home property. In addition to these Central New York research projects, he has directed a variety of projects focusing on cultural transformation and the emergence of African Caribbean communities in plantation and “free village” settings. His writings and presentations explore archaeology of North America, historical archaeology, ethno history, and the Caribbean.

Cherie Butler, a 21-year veteran of the National Park Service, was recently selected as the first superintendent of the Harriet Tubman--Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland. Prior to this position, Butler served as Northeast Regional Office Program Management Assistant, overseeing technical and program management actions and supporting regional communications and legislative affairs. She previously served as Chief of Interpretation and Education at the seven Manhattan Sites in New York City and Chief of Interpretation, Education, and Cultural Resources at the African Burial Ground National Monument from 2009-2011, another new national monument. Her research interests focus on slavery, the American Revolution, emancipation, burial grounds, jazz, and the Civil Rights Movement.

Deidre Hill Butler, Ph.D., is an associate professor of sociology and director of the Africana Studies program at Union College, where she was awarded the Faculty Award at the 2011 Leadership Council on Inclusion Awards. Her research areas encompass the sociology of African American culture and African American women's representations in society. She has published articles in Afro-Americans in New York Life and History: An Interdisciplinary Journal and The Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering. A lifetime member of the Association of Black Women Historians, she contributed an article to the organization's 2008 text, Emerging Voices and Paradigms. She also guest-edited an Africana Mothering-themed edition of The Journal of Pan African Studies. Butler incorporates local service learning experiences into her upper-level courses and teaches courses on comparative American family structures, the intersections of race, class, and gender, and African American feminist practice.

Elizabeth L. Crawford is a senior associate with Crawford & Stearns Architects and Preservation Planners of Syracuse and has been a designer and project manager with the firm since 1983. She has participated in the preservation, rehabilitation, and adaptive use of hundreds of buildings across New York State. Her responsibilities include project coordination, building documentation, and interior use planning and design. Crawford has participated as a team member on numerous historic building condition assessments and historic structure reports and was the project manager for the renovation and restoration of the Harriet May Mills House in Syracuse. She is an active volunteer with area preservation groups, including the Preservation Association of Central New York. She spearheaded the physical restoration of the Harriet Tubman house in collaboration with the Harriet Tubman Home, Inc. and has conducted extensive research about the site and property deeds.

The Hon. Hugh C. Humphreys, LLB, is an adjunct professor at Syracuse University College of Law, where he recently taught a course in abolition law, as well as in the fields of trial practice and evidence. He practiced with several law firms and prosecuted criminal cases with the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 1963 to 1968. He served as a “three hat” judge in Madison County (Family Court, Surrogate Court, and County Court), retiring in 2001. He is now a Judicial Hearing Officer as well as a part-time practicing attorney at the Legal Aid Society in Utica. A founder and member of the Cabinet of Freedom for the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in Peterboro, N.Y., Humphreys is the researcher and author of "Agitate! Agitate! Agitate! The Great Fugitive Slave Law Convention and its Rare Daguerreotype (Madison County Heritage #19, Madison County Historical Society, 1994). A popular playwright and speaker, he has lent his oratory, painting, and theatrical talents to Peterboro heritage projects for two decades.

John Kingsley has been the director of education at the Seward House Museum since November 2011. Prior to that, he was a 2011 Cole Fellow at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, N.Y. From 2008 to 2011, he interned with the Education Department at Morris-Jumel Mansion while pursuing a B.A. in Art History at Fordham University. Committed to community education through history and the arts, Kingsley has focused on interdisciplinary educational programming and curriculum development.


Kate Clifford Larson, Ph.D., is an historian and author of the 2003 biography, Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero. She has worked as a consultant and interpretive specialist for numerous public history initiatives related to Harriet Tubman, as well as the Underground Railroad in Maryland, Delaware, and New York. She is currently a consulting historian for Maryland’s Harriet Tubman State Park and Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, now an All American Road, and Delaware’s newly approved Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway. She has also served as a consulting historian for the National Park Service’s Harriet Tubman Special Resources Study, resulting in the introduction of the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park Act, now awaiting approval in Congress. She teaches at both Simmons and Wheelock colleges in Boston. Larson is now working on her latest book, a biography of Rosemary Kennedy, the disabled sister of President John F. Kennedy.

Billie Luisi-Potts served as the executive director of the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls from 2001 to January 2007. Prior to that, she served as director of development at Regents College. For four years, she directed the public relations and fund raising activities for Catskill Area Hospice Inc., an independent hospice serving three rural counties: Schoharie, Delaware, and Otsego. She was a training associate, program manager and then director of training and technical assistance at the Center for Women in Government, Rockefeller College, State University at Albany. She holds a master’s degree in history from Fordham University, where she was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow. She is a graduate of Capital Leadership, and holds certificates in management and executive development from the University at Albany. She is the author of several books on a wide range of topics, and numerous articles on 19th century women’s rights and anti-slavery activism.

Harry Bradshaw Matthews is the associate dean and director of the U.S. Pluralism Center at Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y. He is also executive director of the United States Colored Troops Institute for Local History and Family Research. A noted specialist on the Killingsworth lineage, Matthews is a Killingsworth descendant from South Carolina and the author of African American Genealogical Research: How to Trace Your Family History. He also is the author of African American Freedom Journey in New York and Related Sites, 1823-1870, Freedom Knows No Color, as well as The Family Legacy of Anthony Johnson: From Jamestown, VA to Somerset, MD 1619-1995. His expertise has garnered attention from national media, including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Chronicle of Higher Education. The grandson of the formerly enslaved African named Richard Parler Jr., Matthews is profiled in Civil War Reenactment: Grand Review 2000, a video by Emmy Award-winning producer Russ Hodge.

Patti Nunno graduated with a B.S. in Education from the State University College at Plattsburgh and did graduate work in education at both SUNY Oswego and SUNY Cortland. She worked as an elementary teacher for 38 years in the Southern Cayuga Central School District. During that time, she represented the Southern Cayuga Teachers’ Association as its president, and she participated in educational initiative, including child study analysis, character education, professional development/assessment, and mentoring. She began volunteering as a docent at the Seward House in 2010. She participated in the creation of child-friendly tours, supplemental education handbooks, and cross-referencing tour information with the NYS social studies core curriculum.

Milton C. Sernett, Ph.D., is professor emeritus of history and African American studies and adjunct professor of religion at Syracuse University. His principal areas of teaching and research have been African American religious history, the American South, the abolitionist movement, the Underground Railroad, and American social reform movements. Among his 15 published books and scholarly essays are African American Religious History: A Documentary Witness, North Star Country: Upstate New York and the Crusade for African American Freedom, and Harriet Tubman: Myth, Memory, & Freedom. He has been a member of the NYS Freedom Trail Commission and is on the Cabinet of Freedom of the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in Peterboro, N.Y. He has received numerous awards and grants, including a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Fellowship and the Distinguished Africanist Award from the New York African Studies Association; and several grants on the Underground Railroad from the National Park Service.

Millicent Sparks is an accomplished actor/writer/producer who has performed on local, regional, and international stages, film, and television. She was nominated twice for the Barrymore Award in Philadelphia for outstanding lead actor for her performances in Fires In The Mirror with Venture Theatre, and Sty of the Blind Pig with Freedom Theatre, and received the Best Actress award for her portrayal of Angel Allen in Blues For An Alabama Sky with St. Louis Black Repertory Company. She portrayed Billie Holiday in Lady Day at the Piccadilly Theatre in London, and in her own one-woman show, Lady Behind The Gardenia at Freedom Theatre. She can also be seen in the film, Beloved. She was one of 10 performers chosen to represent the United States at an International Arts Festival in China, and was the first actor to perform the “Freedom Rising” show at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. In 2002, Sparks portrayed her signature character, Harriet Tubman, on a two-week, 180-mile walk across New Jersey, retracing the route of the Underground Railroad. She regularly portrays Tubman, as well as other historical figures, for school groups, community organizations, churches and special events.

Margaret Washington, Ph.D., is a history professor at Cornell University, specializing in African American history and culture, African American women, and U.S. Southern history. She is one of the foremost authorities on the black experience. Her most recent major work, Sojourner Truth’s America, unravels Sojourner Truth’s world within the broader panorama of American history, slavery, and other significant reforms in the turbulent age of Abraham Lincoln. The work received best book accolades from Choice Magazine, the Association of Black Women, and the Organization of American Historians, and won the Letitia Woods Brown Prize and the Darlene Clark Hine Prize. Washington has also published the only modern edition of The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, A Bondwoman of Olden Times, which includes an original introduction, notes, and textual annotation. She has received research awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Wesleyan University Center for Humanities and the Cornell University Society for the Humanities.

Judith Wellman, Ph.D., is a professor emerita at SUNY Oswego and historian and principal investigator at Historical New York Research Associates, her business that focuses on social and community history, women’s history, and the Underground Railroad, with a special emphasis on historic sites. Author of Uncovering the Freedom Trail in Auburn and Cayuga County, N.Y., and Following the Freedom Trail in Auburn and Cayuga County, N.Y., she has worked for a variety of national, state, and local organizations, including National Park Service, New York State Office of Historic Preservation, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and National Public Radio. She is the recipient of numerous awards such as the Commissioner’s Award for Historic Preservation from NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, Historic Preservation; Local Historian of the Year Award from the New York State Board of Regents; and Project of Excellence Award from the American Association of State and Local History.