Presentation 1 - Ann Bradford Stokes: African American Civil War Nurse

Ann Bradford Strokes (1833-1903) worked aboard the Navy’s first Hospital Ship, Red Rover, of Mound City, Illinois. She worked with sick and wounded soldiers aboard the United States Naval Hospital Ship (U.S.N.) throughout the Western Theater of the Civil War on both the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and their tributaries.

Stokes lived mostly aboard the Red Rover, but occasionally stayed in the Mound City contraband camp in a community of over two thousand people. She volunteered with the Sisters of the Holy Cross and Naval ship officers working as a “first class boy”, cook, laundress, mender–anything to get food to eat. Eventually, Ann assumed the role of a nurse, leading to the beginning of a profession that would last generations. She was the first woman to earn a pension for her work with the U.S.N. Red Rover. After 18 months as an African American Civil War nurse, she left service in November 1864. Several years later, Ann learned to read and write. She settled, remarried, and remained in Southern Illinois for the rest of her life.

In a fascinating reenactment, Marlene Rivero will breathe life back into Ann Stokes and her story, captivating audiences and informing new learners for approximately 45 minutes, with a 15 minute Q&A session afterwards. Marlene brings and shares a touchable display table that she periodically draws from throughout her performance in costume.

Program Topics

  • Civil War History
  • Nursing
  • African American

Book this presentation by first scheduling a date with Marlene via email or phone at 618.534.4840, then completing the Road Scholars Host Organization application.


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Presentation 2 - Elizabeth Keckley: Seamstress

Initially known for her work in the White House for President Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, Elizabeth Keckley gained a reputation as a first-rate tailor and dressmaker while enslaved. For over two and a half years, she used her hands and needle to provide for the seventeen people of her Master’s household.

Keckley says, “While I was working so hard that others might live in comparative comfort and move in those circles of society to which their birth gave them entrance, the thought often occurred to me whether I was really worth my salt or not; then perhaps the lips curled with a bitter sneer.”. After Elizabeth’s freedom, those same hands worked for little or no pay. As an ex-slave, she was still forced to make concessions on her prices in order to get work from the white middle- and upper-class women she worked for. It was unheard of in those days for any woman, much less a Black woman, to create and own a business. Keckley did just that, eventually employing over twenty women.

This is the life that Marlene Rivero will bring to the stage, offering the audience a glimpse into the past with a story deserving our attention.

Program Topics

  • History
  • Dressmaking
  • African American

Book this presentation by first scheduling a date with Marlene via email or phone at 618.534.4840, then completing the Road Scholars Host Organization application.


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About Road Scholar Marlene Rivero

Marlene Rivero is retired from the U.S. Forest Service. Marlene started utilizing storytelling talents in 1999 as a first-person heritage interpreter with the Forest Service. Later, she became lead heritage interpreter for the agency in African American interpretation and presentations, and served in that role for eleven years. From 2003 to 2006, Marlene was a national guest speaker for the Corps of Discovery Expedition. The program, “York’s Mother”, retraced the 1803 journey of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

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About Illinois Humanities Road Scholars Speakers Bureau

Since 1997, our Road Scholars Speakers Bureau has invited Illinois writers, storytellers, historians, folklorists, musicians, and living history actors, among others, to share their expertise and enthusiasm with people throughout our state. It also supports local nonprofit organizations – including libraries, museums, arts councils, historical societies, civic groups, and many others – in presenting free-admission cultural programs of high quality to their communities for a modest application fee, which can be waived if your organization is experiencing financial hardship.

Our Road Scholars Speakers Bureau roster features speakers hailing from many different communities across Illinois who offer presentations on topics in history, archaeology, philosophy, literature, theater, film, music, politics, and other subjects that are thought-provoking and engaging. The breadth of these offerings reflects our conviction that the humanities can help us to examine the world in all its varied shades and discover in it the remarkable, the strange, the fantastic, the tragic, the humorous, and the beautiful.

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