Schenectady’s 19th century history will come back to life tonight at the city’s First United Methodist Church.
The Schenectady Silhouettes, the Duryee Memorial AME Zion Church and Union College are presenting an original play, “We Are Our Brothers Keepers — Early Schenectady Voices: The Union College Relationship With the Abolitionist Spirit, 1800-1865,” written by Marsha Mortimore and Leslie D. Williams.
The story focuses on the thoughts and ideas of five prominent men of the 19th century, all with strong ties to Schenectady and Union College. The historical characters featured are Eliphalet Nott, played by Joe Doolittle; the Rev. Isaac Duryee, played by Alan Butler Sr.; William Seward, played by Sheldon Carnes; Moses Viney, played by Walter Simpkins; and Chester A. Arthur, played by Terry Phillips.
‘We Are Our Brothers Keepers’
WHERE: First United Methodist Church, 603 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: 6 p.m. today
HOW MUCH: Free-will offering
MORE INFO: 355-8157, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nott was the longtime president of Union College (1804-1866) and former pastor at Albany’s First Presbyterian Church (1798-1804). His sermon on dueling following the Alexander Hamilton-Aaron Burr duel gained nationwide attention and sparked legislation against the practice. Nott was also the man who hired Viney as his longtime assistant, allowing the escaped slave to gain his freedom and become a well-respected citizen of Schenectady with his own livery service.
Seward was an 1818 graduate of Union and a staunch abolitionist who went on to become governor of New York, a U.S. senator and secretary of state in the Lincoln administration.
Arthur, whose family moved to Schenectady in the 1840s, was an 1848 graduate of Union College who became U.S. president after the assassination of James Garfield in 1881.
Duryee, a Glenville native, graduated from Union in 1838 and went on to study at Andover Theological Seminary in Andover, Mass., and the New Haven Seminary in New Haven, Conn. Also a staunch abolitionist, Duryee helped African-Americans in Schenectady build their first church, known today as the Duryee Memorial AME Zion Church. Duryee served as pastor at the Second Reformed Church in Schenectady and as a chaplain during the Civil War.
The production will also include choral music of the 19th century provided by Jennifer Perry and Larissa Tucker. First United Methodist Church, Schenectady Inner City Ministry and Story Circle at Proctors are all partners for the event.