Roscoe UMC holds special event in honor of Black History month

| January 16, 2018

COSHOCTON – In observance of Black History month, Roscoe UMC will hold a special service/presentation on Sunday, Feb. 11 at 3 p.m. in the sanctuary.

Soprano Jessica Crowell, Malone University 2016 graduate, and MU senior mezzo-soprano, Desirée Meschell Hargrave, will share a 20 minute opera, “Beneath Suspicion,” written by MU music prof., Dr. Jesse Ayers. MU graduate pianist, Jessica Kapraly, and violinist, Cynthia Noble, will accompany the singers.

“Beneath Suspicion” is based on a true, little-known story of two daring, American women who played on prevailing gender and racial stereotypes to fight slavery by spying for the Union during the Civil War.

Elizabeth Van Lew, a passionate abolitionist known around Richmond as “Crazy Bet,” is the middle-aged daughter of a recently deceased, wealthy Richmond slave owner. Upon her father’s death, she frees her family’s slaves, including a young household servant named Mary. Bet, recognizing Mary’s extreme intelligence, sends her to Philadelphia to a Quaker School to be educated, after which Mary returns to Richmond to work in the Van Lew home as a free woman.

Mary has a photographic memory. She can memorize documents verbatim in one quick reading as well as repeat lengthy conversations word for word. As the war breaks out, Mary is in her early 20s, Bet, her 40s. Though Richmond is the capital of the Confederacy, about half of its inhabitants are Union sympathizers. Bet, a firebrand, uses her contacts to set up a spy ring to report Confederate movements to the Union military.

Her information is so reliable, her coded messages go directly General Ulysses S. Grant. This works imagines a key scene in the lives of these two women: the crisis moment when Mary must decide if she will risk her life to undertake the daring plan she believes God has revealed to her, or if she will shrink back to maintain her safety and personal freedom. Both women were inducted into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame in the 1990s.

The three young ladies will also share some singing/playing prior to their presentation. The church is located at 475 High St. (near Historic Roscoe Village). For more information, call the church at 740-622-7780. Other information regarding Dr. Ayers’ works can be seen at


Category: Faith

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Article contributed to The Beacon.

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