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"Possessing Harriet"
A staged reading of a new play by Kyle Bass

Thursday, November 15
7:30 p.m. [NOTE TIME CHANGE]

New York State Museum, 222 Madison Avenue, Albany

Free and open to the public.

Staged reading of a new play by Kyle Bass inspired by the real story of an enslaved woman, Harriet Powell, who escaped from her owners, and a conversation she had with a young Elizabeth Cady (later Stanton), who later became a fierce advocate for women’s rights. 

A featured public event of the annual Researching New York Conference. Shange is a cultural icon, leading feminist and central figure of the Black Arts Movement.

Written by Kyle Bass, "Possessing Harriet" was commissioned by the Onondaga Historical Association, which notes on its website: “This inspirational chapter of our location history imagines a conversation between an enslaved woman, Harriet Powell, and a young Elizabeth Cady, the fierce advocate for women’s rights. The conversation takes place in an attic room in the Peterboro, New York, home of abolitionist Gerrit Smith as Harriet, having slipped away from a Syracuse hotel and the family who owns her, awaits her departure north on the Underground Railroad. This absorbing drama unfolds in real time, as danger nears and Harriet must make a life-altering decision.”

Directed by Tazewell Thompson and featuring: Nichole King (as Harriet Powell), Wynn Harmon (as Gerrit Smith), Lucy Lavely (as Elizabeth Cady) and Daniel Morgan Shelley (as Tom Leonard).

This staged reading of "Possessing Harriet" is a featured public event of the annual Researching New York Conference.

Researching New York is cosponsored by the University at Albany History Department, the History Graduate Student Organization, and the M.E. Grenander Archives and Special Collection and the New York State Archives Partnership Trust with additional support from Humanities New York, the New York State Museum and the University at Albany College of Arts and Sciences, Office for Research and University Auxiliary Services. "Possessing Harriet" is made possible with additional support from the Graduate Program in Public History, the Department of Africana Studies, and the Department of Music and Theatre program.

The full 3-day program and registration information for Researching New York (not required for this event) is available at

Promotional video from the staged production in Syracuse. (Note: The November 15 event is a staged reading.)