Koram wears several hats for Black History

  • Brightstar Touring Theater actresses Adiya Koram, second from left, and Sarah Hill, second from right, met Frank Robinson of Farragut, left, and Carl Wheeler of Knoxville following their Black History program Sunday, Feb. 6, which Robinson and Wheeler attended in Farragut Town Hall boardroom. The men also are active locally, sharing the history and significance of the Tuskegee Airmen. - Photos by Michelle Hollenhead

  • Koram performed a number of roles for the Farragut audience, including this one of vice presidential candidate and former slave Frederick Douglass. - Photos by Michelle Hollenhead

Farragut Town Hall was alive with the voices of Black historical pioneers Charles Alfred “Chief” Anderson, Col. Charles Young, Bass Reeves, Harriet Tubman, Oliver Brown, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mary Elizabeth Bowser Sunday, Feb. 6, as the Town kicked off celebrating Black History Month for the first time in two years.

Brightstar Touring Theater actress Adiya Koram portrayed the pioneers while fellow thespian Sarah Hill performed supporting characters as the pair presented a living history program — the Town’s first Brightstar event in three years.

“We had not had the opportunity to have our Black History program since 2020 and had not hosted Brightstar Touring Theatre since 2019,” Town Historic Resources coordinator Julia Barham explained. “I really love hosting them because their programs are geared toward elementary age children and are also enjoyed by the adults in attendance. I hope to be able to host them again next year for our 2023 program.”

Children indeed were among the attendees filling Town Hall’s boardroom.

“We received good feedback from the attendants of the program,” Barham added. “Everyone I spoke to felt (it) was very educational and all the kids really seemed to like it.

“I personally felt like the program turnout was really good.”

Koram and Hill kept the audience enthralled with their performances, sharing stories about well-known trailblazers, as well as those lesser-known, such as Bowser, one of Confederate President Jefferson Davis’s house slaves, whose spying helped end the American Civil War.

Reeves, the first Black U.S. Marshall west of the Mississippi, “was the most feared U.S. deputy in the territory and arrested over 3,000 fugitives,” Koram said.

Anderson often was referred to as “The Father of Black Aviation” because he trained and mentored hundreds of Black pilots, and even famously piloted former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt during her visit to Tuskegee Institute in a move that helped persuade her husband, then President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to establish military flight training there later that year under Anderson’s leadership.

As Young, Koram imparted the frustrations experienced when he was denied promotion to brigadier general based on the color of his skin, even though he was a member of the Buffalo Soldiers, the first Black lieutenant colonel and had successfully served in many important roles.

Doctors falsely claimed Young had high blood pressure during a routine physical, which led to an early retirement, but he rode 500 miles on horseback from Wilberforce, Ohio, to Washington, D.C., to prove his physical fitness.

“He was allowed to serve again … proving what really matters is if you believe in yourself,” Koram said.

Tuskegee connection

The actors entertained questions following the presentation and met two area gentlemen, Frank Robinson of Farragut and Carl Wheeler of Knoxville, who work together teaching members of the community about the Tuskegee Airmen, yet doing so independent of any official organization, Robinson said.

“We have been working with local folks and with local community colleges ... trying to keep their name out there because people need to understand their actions, and also because we are so proud of what they did,” Wheeler said.