Vienna Public Library hosts ‘History Alive!’

VIENNA – Clad in Civil War Union attire, Joseph Bundy of Mercer County brought the character of Martin Delany to life at the Vienna Public Library Thursday evening.

Bundy, as Delany, described his experiences of growing up under the constant threat of slavery before the Civil War.

The program was part of The History Alive! presentations.

Bundy, an experienced presenter who portrays several characters in his presentations, brought the historical character of Delany to life in the Simonton Room of the Vienna Public Library during an hour-long monologue. Bundy studied theater at Marshall University and became an amateur historian. Impersonating historical figures provided him the opportunity to combine his two interests, Bundy said.

Bundy has presented his talk in Kansas City and Pittsburgh, with presentations lasting up to two hours at times.

Speaking as Delany, Bundy began his presentation with the recollection of April 14, 1865, when he, as the first African-American officer in the Union troops, was invited to witness the restoration of the American flag over Fort Sumter in Charleston, S.C., shortly after the official end of the Civil War.

It was also the day that President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in Washington, D.C., Bundy said.

From this point, Bundy’s speech reflected to Delany’s childhood, speaking of how Delany and his sister had learned to read and write from a book purchased from a peddler in Charles Town, which was a city in Virginia at the time.

Delany’s family was forced to flee to Chambersburg, Pa., when it was discovered that he knew how to read, as it was “a crime for colored children to know how to read and write in those days,” Bundy said.

The presentation advanced through Delany’s lifetime, touching on such high points as Delany becoming a physician’s apprentice in Pittsburgh, being accepted to Harvard University, later being dismissed from Harvard University just prior to graduation because of his skin color, meeting President Abraham Lincoln, joining the Underground Railroad, and forming the 104th Colored Troops division of the Union Army. Bundy finished his presentation with a question-and-answer session, first fielding questions for Delany, then questions about himself as the presenter.

Several of those viewing the presentation stayed afterward to speak with Bundy.

“I thought it was very good,” said Dave Garrison, 56, of Vienna. “I thought it was really interesting and I don’t know a lot about him, but I will be studying more about him.”

Several teachers from Parkersburg High School offered extra credit for attending the event, said many of the students in attendance. David Lake, 48, of Parkersburg viewed the performance as an educational opportunity.

“It was very informing and really educational,” Lake said. “He did a fine job and is an eloquent speaker. It seemed very real.”