Confronting Tragic History
In this episode, Dr. Joseph Stoltz sits down with Mount Vernon character interpreter Brenda Parker to discuss the challenges of portraying and articulating the past in a modern setting.
Brenda Parker is a mother of four and happily married to a retired Army officer turned preacher. She started her life as an "Army Brat," whose parents attended segregated schools. Growing up in diverse communities and neighborhoods, along with her parents instructions towards acceptance and inclusion, groomed her talent for acting. While trying to find a way to fit in, she discovered the joy of music and performing. These skills, when later combined with a God-instilled love for reading and discovery, would benefit her in becoming a well-researched and highly skilled Historical Character Interpreter. Although she has only been working at this job for three years now, she hopes to make it a career. Her goals with every guest interaction are to educate them on the history of lesser noticed individuals, as well as the ways of that person's world. Secondly, she strives to entertain them with appropriate customs, language, and stories. She also hopes to inspire guests to recognize past behaviors in comparison to the present and work for change. At the end of the day, she counts it a blessing to be able to assist in the more inclusive progression of George Washington’s complex and tangled narrative.
Joseph Stoltz is a historian and the Deputy Director of Leadership Programs at the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon. He is also the author of A Bloodless Victory: The Battle of New Orleans in History and Memory.