Mama Kemba


Anna Johnson-Webb
5521 W. Walton Street
Chicago IL 60651


Momma Kemba travels the U.S. and abroad, keeping the spirit of strong black women in American History alive through dramatic storytelling and song. Extensive research is evident in each of her presentations described as "spiritual, riveting, dynamic, fine-tuned, motivational, inspirational and educational." The stories of Harriet Tubman, Mary McLeod-Bethune, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Aunt Clara Brown and Fannie Lou Hamer are done in full costume. Kemba has conducted workshops instructing teachers/students how to teach/learn through drama/storytelling. Venues include colleges, schools, museums, churches, Job Corp., prisons, Kentucky State Fair, Barbados W.I., Hamilton Bermuda, and West Africa.




American History Live!

Learning Through Art


Strong Black Women Series

Presented in full costume and spiced with moving spirituals and anecdotes.

These presentations will enlighten, educate and encourage, hopefully transforming the mind set

and motivating the audience to strive to make a positive difference in their community, and our world.



Harriet Tubman | Mary McLeod Bethune | Clara Brown | Sojourner Truth | Ida B. Wells | Fannie Lou Hamer


Also Available: Works of Paul L. Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Spirit of Frederick Douglas,
Cultural Fashions and African Market


Kemba as Harriet TubmanHarriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman

The "Moses" of her people
Born in Dorchester County, Maryland


A small band of runaways made their way through the darkness. Theirs was a long, tiring and dangerous journey. In Harriet's words "it wurth evah bit a pain n' sufferin' us has ta go thru, cause dis heah a freedom journey, dat mean we gwain be free." And so they continued on, making their way through th dark woods, escaping north. "Black Moses" had struck again.


Harriet Tubman was born on a slave-breeding plantation in Maryland, the sixth of eleven children. She was reared under the harsh and brutal social environment of slavery. Strong as a man, brave as a lion, cunning as a fox, she escaped North. But returned South 19 times and led over 300 Africans out of bondage. Even a $40,000 reward on her head couldn't deter her from her self-imposed task of freeing her people.


Although she worked tirelessly for 5 years without pay, as a scout, nurse and military strategist for the Union Army, the U.S. government persistently denied her any government pension - because she was black and a woman.


Harriet Tubman received many honors, including a medal from Queen Victoria of England. This great heroine spent her last years in poverty.



Kemba as Mary McLeon-BethuneMary McLeod-Bethune

Mary McLeod-Bethune


Dr. Mrs. Mary Jane McLeod Bethune was born July 10, 1875, on a small rice and cotton farm near Maysville, South Carolina. She realized early on that one of the great differences between the haves and have-nots was education.


The stinging words "put down that book, YOU can't read" started her on a life-long quest of education for herself and her people.

Against all odds she founded McLeod Hospital, the National Council of Negro Women, and Bethune-Cookman College. Her school motto was "Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve." Ms. Bethune served as advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.


"The drums of Africa beat in my heart, I cannot rest while there is a single negro boy or girl lacking the opportunity to prove his or her worth. We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we that good ends."


Ms. Bethune died in 1955, leaving a legacy of "Love, Hope, Faith and Racial Dignity."



Kemba as Aunt Clara Brown"Aunt" Clara Brown

Aunt Clara Brown

"Black Pioneer"


At the age of three, Clara's family was torn apart, in Galletin, Tennessee, when she and her mother were purchased separately. At the age of 35, history repeated itself when her husband of 17 years and her three teenage children were all sold separately. At the age of 55, she was "set free" (discarded) and began her arduous search for her youngest child, Liza Jane, believing she was probably the only family member still alive.


Ms. Brown became a noted business woman in Colorado; she won the respect and admiration of the citizens of Colorado for her pioneering spirit and unusual service to Freed Africans who had migrated to the area. The Society of Colorado Pioneers eulogized her as "the kind old friend whose heart always responded to the cry of distress, and who, rising from the humble position of slave to the angelic type of noble woman, won our sympathy and commanded our respect."


The quest for her daughter lead her to St. Louis, Kansas, Colorado, Kentucky, and back to Tennessee. Her travels and good deeds earned her the name of "pioneer," though her main passion was to find her daughter. After 45 years, at the age of 82 and three years before she died, Clara Brown was reunited with her Liza Jane.



Kemba as Sojourner TruthSojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth

Freedom's Messenger
Born: Hurley, New York


Sojourner Truth was born into slavery, named Isabella Hardenbergh by her Dutch-speaking owner. The 12th of 13 children; all sold before she was born.


Sojourner received the most brutal beating of her life because she spoke Dutch and could not understand English. She was 11 years old. "One Sunday mornin' she sen me out to da barn, Mistah Neely waitin', he got rod tie n heat. He rip off my shurt, n he beat me til I faint. I lay in de straw soak in blood n cry, n pray I kin lurn dem anglish wurds."


At the age of 46, Sojourner decided to "speak out about slav'ry." She changed her name to Sojourner Truth because she planned to travel with God's truth. Though unable to read or write, she had an extraordinary gift of speech, and was a much sought after speaker for women rights and abolitionist programs.


Her book, "Narrative of Sojourner Truth, A Northern Slave" was published in 1850. She dedicated her life to opening the doors of freedom to all people. She died in Battle Creek, Michigan, at the age of 86.



Kemba as Ida B WellsIda B. Wells-Barnett

Ida B Wells

"Woman Warrior"
Anti-Lynching Crusader


Ida Wells, the daughter of a carpenter, was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi, in 1862. Her parents were slaves but they family achieved freedom in 1865. When Ida was sixteen both her parents and a younger brother, died of yellow fever. At a meeting following the funeral, friends and relatives decided that the five children should be farmed out to various aunts and uncles. Ida was devastated by the idea and to keep the family together, dropped out of High School, and found employment as a teacher in a local Black school.


In 1880 Ida moved to Memphis where she attended Fisk University. Ida held strong political opinions and she upset many people with her views on women's rights. Ida became a public figure in Memphis when in 1884 she led a campaign against segregation on the local railway. After being forcibly removed from a whites only carriage she successfully sued the Chesapeake, Ohio & South Western Railroad Company. However, this was overturned three years later by a ruling from the Tennessee Supreme Court.


Ida also wrote articles on civil rights for local newspapers and when she criticized the Memphis Board of Education for under-funding African American schools, she lost her job as a teacher. She used her savings to become part owner of Free Speech, a small newspaper in Memphis. Over the next few years she concentrated on writing about individual cases where black people had suffered at the hands of white racists. This included an investigation into lynching. When Ida wrote an article condemning the lynchers, a white mob destroyed her printing press.


In 1895 Ida married Ferdinand Barnett, the founder of the Conservator, the first African American newspaper in Chicago. In 1901 Ida published her book, Lynching and the Excuse for It. In the book she argued that the main aim of lynching was to intimidate blacks from becoming involved in politics and therefore maintaining white power in the South. Ida was also one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. At the first conference of the NAACP she successfully persuaded the organization to resolve to make lynching a federal crime.



Kemba as Fannie Lou HamerFannie Lou Hamer

Fannie Lou Hamer



Born October 6, 1917, in Montgomery County, Mississippi, Fannie Lou Hamer was the granddaughter of a slave and the youngest of 20 children. Her parents were sharecroppers. At age six, Fannie Lou began helping her parents in the cotton fields. By the time she was twelve, she was forced to drop out of school and work full time to help support her family. Once grown, she married another sharecropper named Perry "Pap" Hamer.


On August 31, 1962, Mrs. Hamer decided she had had enough of sharecropping. Leaving her house in Ruleville, MS she and 17 others took a bus to the courthouse in Indianola, the county seat, to register to vote. On their return home, police stopped their bus. They were told that their bus was the wrong color. Fannie Lou and the others were arrested and jailed.


In 1964, in an effort to focus greater national attention on voting discrimination, civil rights groups created the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). This new party sent a delegation, which included Fannie Lou Hamer, to Atlantic City, where the Democratic Party was holding its presidential convention. Its purpose was to challenge the all-white Mississippi delegation on the grounds that it didn't fairly represent all the people of Mississippi, since most black people hadn't been allowed to vote.


Fannie Lou Hamer spoke to the Credentials Committee of the convention about the injustices that allowed an all-white delegation to be seated from the state of Mississippi. Although her live testimony was pre-empted by a presidential press conference, the national networks aired her testimony, in its entirety, later in the evening. Now all of America heard of the struggle in Mississippi's delta. The Democrats agreed that in the future no delegation would be seated from a state where anyone was illegally denied the vote. A year later, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act.