Storyteller and living history actor Marlene Rivero portrays Ann Stokes, who is believed to have been the first African American woman to serve on board a U.S. military vessel.
Born enslaved in Tennessee in 1830 and later a resident of the “contraband camp” in Mound City, Illinois, Stokes was taken aboard a Union ship in January 1863, just after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. She volunteered to serve as a nurse on the first Union hospital ship, the U.S.S. Red Rover, a steamboat that had been captured from the Confederacy. The ship traveled the Mississippi and other interior rivers, venturing deep into Confederate territory to treat sick and injured Union military personnel. Under the direction of the Sisters of the Order of the Holy Cross, Stokes and her fellow nurses treated almost 3,000 patients on board. Rivero presents a first-person account of Stokes’s inspiring fortitude.
This event is being produced in part by Illinois Humanities Road Scholars Speakers Bureau, a program that provides organizations statewide with affordable, entertaining, and thought-provoking humanities events for their communities.