Ellen Garrison: Scenes from an Activist Life

In 1835, 12-year-old Ellen Garrison marched in the Concord bicentennial parade, the only person of color to participate, launching her into a life of civil rights activism. Ellen Garrison: Scenes from an Activist Life, the latest Half the History film from Five Sisters Productions and Tufts University, highlights key moments in Garrison’s career, from the parade to her teaching in the South after the Civil War, to her challenging segregation in a Baltimore trail station waiting room in 1866, a century before Rosa Parks.

The film emerges as the town’s Concord 250 committee has sought to plan an expansive and inclusive commemoration of its history and role at the start of the American Revolution, and the semiquincentennial of “the shot heard round the world” coming up on April 19, 2025.
Garrison was born and raised in The Robbins House in 1823, granddaughter and daughter of formerly enslaved men including grandfather, Caesar Robbins, a farmer and Revolutionary War veteran, and father, Jack Garrison, who escaped slavery in New Jersey. A Town proclamation marking her 200th birthday on April 14, 2023, became the first formal Concord 250 event, followed in 2024 with a celebratory event with film preview at the historic Concord Armory.

This June 8, 2024, The Umbrella Arts Center will host the world premiere screening of Ellen Garrison: Scenes from an Activist Life, directed by Jennifer Burton and Ursula Burton and produced by Five Sisters Productions and Julie Dobrow, with the Tufts Production Team. The short film will be followed by a behind-the-scenes mini-documentary and an interactive discussion with members of the filmmaking team, Concord 250, and The Robbins House.

This event is free and open to the public, but with limited capacity, so RSVP in advance is requested at https://TheUmbrellaArts.org/Ellen. The Umbrella is ADA accessible, and provides free parking and free admission to its visual arts galleries.

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