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Storyteller brings history to life

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

McDonough native Dorothy Mains Prince travels throughout the country telling the tales of those who came before her.

Delivering monologues since 1995 as women such as author and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, poet Phillis Wheatley, and 19th Century journalist and activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Prince, who now lives in the Boston area, says she hopes her performances are inspiring.

"They inspire me," Prince said of the women she portrays. "The women I perform as are outstanding, distinguished women who made wonderful contributions to the country in education, literature, and politics."

As part of its Black History Month program, Wesley Lakes Elementary School in McDonough brought Prince in Thursday to perform as Mary McLeod Bethune for about 250 of its students.

Prince told the young audience about Bethune's childhood, her family, her life experiences and the contributions she made toward civil rights in her lifetime.

She told the children Bethune was born in South Carolina on July 10, 1875, and is best known for starting a school for black students in Daytona Beach, Fla., and serving as an advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Prince recounted an incident in which Bethune was told she was not allowed to read a book because she was black.

Loren Le, 11, a member of the school's storytelling club, said she was paying close attention to the details of Prince's performance.

"I was looking at her moves," she said. "I was also listening to [her tone,] how she got high and low."

Fourth-grade teacher Shelly Meyers said the performance fit in with recent lessons at the school.

"I was very impressed," Meyers said. "For the kids to experience the storytelling, and the historical significance of that, is good."

Prince says women she portrays - a list that also includes Gwendolyn Brooks and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper - were not concerned about their own welfare but about the welfare of others.

"They are women who came from meager backgrounds, but used their talents and their gifts to make a better country," she said.