Staged reading of play ‘Elizabeth Jennings’ to come to Crossways Theatre in Greenwich Village

elizabeth jennings graham lead
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Crossways Theatre presents a staged reading of “Elizabeth Jennings,” a true story about a fearless woman during the 20th century, premiering on April 30. 

This story is about Jennings (played by Broadway star Amy Jo Phillips), an African American school teacher who survived the draft riots during the Civil War in 1863. Amidst the chaos of mansions burning down, violent marches ensuing, 19 black people lost their lives that day. Carrying on, Jennings rose above these tragic events and moved US history forward. 

She formed the first black kindergarten in New York until she died in 1901. She was called “an unknown hero” by her 3rd and 4th-grade class, and they met with city officials to have Elizabeth Jennings Place located at Park Row and Spruce Street, named in 2007. And a statue of Jennings will soon be unveiled near Grand Central Station.

Among other things, Jennings fought a cop and conductor in 1854 to sit on an all-white streetcar. These events happened 100 years before the infamous Rosa Parks and her unwillingness to give up her seat. For Jennings, though, this tenacity ran in the family. Her father, Thomas Jennings, a successful business owner, formed a legal group for black self-defense. He sued the Third Avenue Streetcar Company and won at Brooklyn Civil Court in 1855. 

Phillips and actor JR Carter are excited to be a part of this production, bringing the audience in to display the life of this great woman.

“This play started as a term paper. I took a course in New York City history in 2016 with Dr. Stephan Levine, who taught us about Elizabeth Jennings. He said I could write a play,” Playwright Lionelle Hamanaka said. 

Join Crossways Theatre for this one evening event as they pay tribute to this great unknown hero. The influence and impact she has made cannot go unnoticed, and it is thanks to this production company one can learn about the beautiful and inspiring life of Ms. Elizabeth Jennings.  

The event will be held Saturday, April 30 from 8 to 9:30 p.m. at Judson Church Memorial Assembly Hall, located at 239 Thompson Street. There will be a suggested donation of $20 but no one will be turned away.