Living History: Black Reenactors Walk in Ancestors’ Footsteps

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By Renata Sago, Word in Black

From Revolutionary War rebels to antebellum rebellions of the enslaved, Black historical reenactors are demonstrating how threads of Black stories are woven into the American fabric.

“When you consider reenactment, what does that mean to you?” Lavada Nahon asks. 

For more than a decade, Nahon, a technical theater specialist-turned-culinary and cultural historian, has interpreted research about life in New Netherland — the bustling 17th century Dutch, English, and French settlement that predates modern-day New York City — as a Black historical reenactor. 

Specializing in the pre-colonial history of people in the city, Nahon has talked to public school groups and private tours, “on a hearth in a historic site in period clothes.” Reenactment, she explains, is part historical preservation, part business, part education. And she is one of few Black people in New York state doing this work. 

“It’s eye opening. Giving presence to thousands and thousands of people that otherwise would not be spoken to at all — spoken about at all,” Nahon says.

Nahon is part of a small but growing cohort of Black people finding work as historical reenactors, a profession in which Black faces aren’t often seen. 

At a time when states are restricting the teaching of Black history, Nahon and others — actors, historians, living descendents of historical figures, and amateurs — are using their talents to show that the stories of Black people and other people of color are woven throughout the nation’s history.

Keep reading to learn about the reenactments.

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