A slave's story: Local actress shares historical voices

A little known figure from Wilton will be taking the spotlight in the one-woman musical “A Journey…” on March 3 at the Wilton Library.
Kimberly Wilson, the writer and actress who performs “A Journey…” will bring Haggar Tonquin, a slave who lived in 18th century Wilton, to life during her show. Wilson said that she worked with the Wilton Historical Society to create a character to share details about Tonquin’s life as the last slave in Wilton.

“Someone shares a story, they share the pieces of history from the library or land records because sometimes there’s not much, it could just be the woman, or the slave could be on the records of a sale and then we have to build the story and build around it,” she said.
While Wilson isn’t willing to give away too many details about Tonquin, she did mention that Tonquin was a married slave who had a family of her own, in "addition to serving the family who owned her.
“She was the last slave in Wilton. So knowing she was the last slave, she was not the first and there were many others before her and in Wilton, unlike what we tend to assume is the life of a slave at a southern plantation, the life of the commoner of Wilton, in Fairfield County would be similar to a wife who is here now; cooking, cleaning, taking care of the children, the house and the family. So what makes her story different and unique has to be told because she was not a family member, she was a slave bought and purchased for that purpose,” she said. “There’s not much stated, just that she existed so there is a poetic license that can round out her person.”
In addition to sharing Tonquin’s story, Wilson will also explore the lives of historical figures Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth and Maya Angelou in “A Journey…” Wilson’s show also incorporates characters she has created called African Queen and the Slave Woman to share those experiences.

Wilson created “A Journey…” seven years ago because she wanted to create a show that could be performed in schools, at libraries and historical societies during Black History Month.
“My musical one-woman show is really an homage to the love I feel about our history, our courageous women of the past and the importance of sharing those wonderful stories and also celebrating the stories of each other and telling our stories,” Wilson said.
After the show, Wilson will host a talkback with the audience. She said she doesn’t plan any questions and that there’s always a lively discussion following her performances.
“There’s a spirit that connects with the audiences and there’s never a time where anybody says nothing, there’s times where the after-talk has to be curtailed so everybody can go home,” Wilson said. “People want to share, they want to acknowledge what they have received, the message they may have gotten from a character, a song, a voice or a nuance or often they share where they were years ago, but they want to share their story — that’s what happens in the talkback.”
Wilson also noted she shares her own story during the show after feedback she received during one of her shows.
When asked what she hopes people will take away from her performance, Wilson said, “Our history is our history, you can’t go back and change it. We have to come to a point where we truthfully share it.”
“A Journey…” will be performed on March 3 at 3 p.m. in the Brubeck Room at the Wilton Library. For more information about the show visit, wiltonlibrary.org.