An assortment of history’s most important characters come to life in the town center square of Andalucia, courtesy of the sixth-graders of the Primary School of Andalucia.
The event is a throwback to tradition for AES sixth graders and teachers after the public portion of the event had to be canceled in recent years due to the pandemic.
The event is organized and sponsored by AES sixth grade teachers: Casey Athearn, Reading; Lynn Castleberry, math; Kayla Craig, Resource; Shanna Davis, science; Matthew McQuay, social studies; Vanessa Snider, English; and Josh Sheffer, band.
The program began around 16 years ago when it was launched by teacher Linda Kyle and involves all sixth graders at the school, a total of 110 students.
After months of working on their projects and learning about their assigned historical figure, the sixth graders will share their knowledge with guests at the Living History event on Friday, May 6. The event begins at around 9 am with a parade by the town hall of Andalusia. to the town center square. Once in the square, the students will be available until 10 a.m. to share the stories of their historical figures with the public. The Band of the College of Andalusia will lead the parade.
Students will tell the stories of people such as Anne Frank, Sitting Bull, Harriet Tubman, Elvis Presley, Rosie the Riveter and many more.
“Over the years, the program has changed and turned into a speaking project. Children read a book as part of the process. From there they get a quiz and then start working on a draft,” McQuay said.
Snider has been involved with the program for eight years, and she said this year’s students have worked hard on the project.
“We have a lot of very detailed costumes. They’ve been working on it since the beginning of March, and we’re trying to stick to an eight-week timeline. This gives them time to do their research. At first they don’t seem excited, but over time they get more excited,” Snider said.
Among the famous characters highlighted in the plaza will be Walt Disney, who will be played by Thomas Turner.
Turner said he only knew that Walt Disney was the person in charge of the Disney films when he started the project.
“I read a book about him and started writing all the important things he did. I learned that he created ‘Snow White’ and ‘Alice in Wonderland’. J really like that he had the passion to create the things he wanted,” Turner said.
He said getting to know Disney made him want to learn more about the Disney family, including Walt’s daughters.
Turner is the son of Cindy Turner.
Naimah Bradley will share the story of one of America’s most beloved poets and authors, Maya Angelou.
“She was a poetry writer and received numerous acting awards and nominations,” Bradley said. “Her real name is actually Margaret Johnson and she stopped talking for a while as a child because she was abused.”
Bradley said she came to appreciate Angelou’s role in the civil rights movement and other ways she supported African Americans.
“She and a friend raised money for Dr. King’s Southern Leadership Conference and she started her own group to help black Americans,” she said.
Bradley said creating his presentation on Angelou required a lot of reading, note-taking and memorization.
“I had to write a lot of notes and learn important facts. I put everything in a graphic organizer. It took me about two to three days to memorize the speech. I’m a little nervous, but excited at the same time,” Bradley said.
Bradley is the daughter of Brittany Bradley and Brandon Sims.
Destini Hourel will tell the story of America’s first black woman millionaire, Sarah Walker.
“She created hair products for herself and African Americans. She was the first to create the hot comb,” Hourel said.
She also learned that Walker’s reputation as an entrepreneur matched her philanthropic efforts.
“She visited military camps before they left for the battlefields in France and she participated in silent protests to raise awareness of racial violence against African Americans.”
Hourel said Walker is inspiring because of the things she had to overcome before becoming a successful businesswoman.
“She was born in May 1867. She couldn’t go to public schools in Louisiana. She learned her ABCs at her church. Learning about all the creative things she did was very interesting,” she said.
Hourel is the daughter of Kemisia Robertson and Michael Hourel.
Emma Blankenship has been cast as one of America’s most famous first ladies, Dolley Madison.
“Mrs. Snider gave me a book. It was kinda short so she gave me a documentary about her. It was very interesting. I had no idea she had two husbands. Everything I knew of her was that she saved a White House portrait during the War of 1812. She was very brave to do what she did to save the portrait,” Blankenship said.
She said learning about Madison and preparing for the Living History event was a lot of work.
“Writing the speech was difficult. I had to start with notes on the book and the documentary. Then I had to start my draft and then work on the final draft. It was a long process,” Blankenship said.
For many students, this is their first time speaking in public, which makes them a little nervous.
“I’m a little nervous and anxious, but mostly excited,” she said.
The public is invited to learn more about America’s history by attending the Living History event on Friday, May 6, with the parade beginning around 9 a.m. and presentations in the downtown plaza from around 9 15 to 10 a.m.