Gettysburg National Military Park
All Media Artist Residency
February 15th – March 12th
Queen Esther, award-winning vocalist, songwriter, recording artist, librettist, playwright, actor is artist-in-residence February-March 2020 at Gettysburg.
Gettysburg Pennsylvania—The National Parks Arts Foundation and the National Park Service, and all media welcomes Queen Esther. During her residency, Queen Esther will be presenting her work to the public March 6th 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Museum and Visitors Center.
During her residency, she wants to show the world a glimpse of Gettysburg from an African-American perspective. Something that is rarely addressed by historians and Civil War scholars. This is a microcosm of the African’s history of America, one that desperately needs to be included with the history of Gettysburg as a museum installation, exhibit, and more.
Through solo performance, live music, original songs, soundbites/testimonials and imagery, she would tell the story of the community of free African-Americans in Gettysburg and juxtapose the battles that raged on this infamous and blood-soaked battlefield with the fight held against Southern rebels in the more porous areas of south Pennsylvania, a fight that threatened to take them back to the Deep South as contraband.
The unraveling of this part of Gettysburg’s history will end with a real rebel’s story, Cathay Williams, a newly freed slave from Independence, Missouri. Unable to find gainful employment in the wake of the Civil War’s demise, disguised herself as a soldier, switched her name to William Cathay, and was the first African-American woman to join the United States Army. After her honorable discharge from a two-year stint in the military, she rejoined their ranks as a member of the infamous all- black 33rd regiment – otherwise known as the Buffalo Soldiers.
Surrounded by images of Gettysburg, Civil War soldiers, and African captives, and with music, She would begin with a performance art piece about Pickett’s Charge – the infantry assault that happened on the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg – what day-to-day lives were like as black folk while this was going on and how our lives were disrupted. She would go even further, delving into what we were doing on the battlefield that day as any other, on both sides of the conflict. She would continue with the other battle of Gettysburg – free blacks as war contraband, fighting to not be taken back down south. Ending with The Ballad of William Cathay, a triumphant story that happened in the aftermath of the Civil War.
Queen Esther grew up in the Deep South in a semi-rural area with six brothers. At five years old she had a four octave range and an IQ that put her in the gifted program for English and creative writing. In high school in Atlanta, Georgia, she participated in citywide productions such as Bernstein’s Mass with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. She competed for and won several scholarships in theater via Arts recognition and talent search sponsored by the National Foundation for the Arts. She chose the University of Texas and exploded in the local music scene in Austin as a member of Ro-Tel and the Hot Tomatoes. She relocated to New York City and received a BA from The New School in screenwriting. She was cast in a variety of works and recordings. Queen Esther has four albums: Talkin’ Fish Bowl Blues; The Other Side; What is Love?; Child of Destiny.
Programs like Gettysburg National Military Park’s artist-in-residence series, in which acclaimed artists find inspiration from the beauty and history of our national parks, and share their ideas with park visitors, represent some of the highest aspirations of the National Park Service. The Gettysburg battlefield has a long artistic tradition that includes sketches by Alfred Waud during the fighting in 1863, the iconic photography of Alexander Gardner in the immediate aftermath of battle, over a thousand memorial sculptural treasures, and commemorative works by Gutzon Borglum and many others.
The program is offered thanks to the input and support of the National Park Service and the Gettysburg Foundation whose joint efforts make the park the foremost visitor destination for those interested in the epic history of the American Civil War. Gettysburg National Military Park preserves, protects and interprets for this and future generations the resources associated with the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, during the American Civil War, the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, and their commemorations.
The National Parks Arts Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to the promotion of the National Parks of the U.S. by creating dynamic opportunities for artworks that are based in our natural and historic heritage. This project is supported by the Gettysburg Foundation and other generous benefactors. All NPAF programs are made possible through the philanthropic support of donors ranging from corporate sponsors and small businesses, to art patrons and citizen-lovers of the parks.