Ain’t I a Woman playbill

Ain't I a Woman

presented by

Celebrating 50+ Years of Africana Studies at UT







a chamber music theatre work
text by KIM HINES


Ju Young Lee, Cello
Mikael Darmanie, Piano
Michael Parola, percussion

Akin Babatunde, original stage adaptation
Hugh Hinton, script editor and musical advisor
Rosa Rodriguez, stage director
Michael Parola, producer
Margot Emery, managing director

Please: No use of cell phones, watch alarms, texting, flash photography, and unauthorized videotaping during the performance. Thank you.

Co-Sponsored by
UT Division of Diversity and Engagement
UT Department of Theatre
UT College of Arts and Sciences

Special Thanks
Vice Chancellor Tyvi Small

Shinnerrie Jackson portrays multiple characters while interacting with the onstage musical trio of cello, piano and percussion.

A celebration of the life and times of four powerful African American women: ex-slave and fiery abolitionist Sojourner Truth, renowned novelist and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, exuberant folk artist Clementine Hunter, and fervent civil rights worker Fannie Lou Hamer. The musical score is drawn from the heartfelt spirituals and blues of the Deep South, the urban vitality of the Jazz Age, and contemporary concert music by African Americans.

AIN’T I A WOMAN is performed without an intermission.     Playing time is approx. one hour and twenty minutes

Musical Synopsis


1934 -  New York City: A party for Zora Neale Hurston

The Profit - Max Roach, arr. Charles Floyd
Blues for Miles - Diane Monroe
Crepuscule with Nellie - Thelonius Monk, arr. Hugh Hinton
Blues for Miles (reprise) - Diane Monroe
Roland Kirk’s Message (solo piano) - Charles Mingus
Sweet and Lovely (solo piano) - Thelonius Monk, arr. Charles Floyd
Careless Love - Bessie Smith, arr. Charles Floyd


Aquarius - Mary Lou Williams, arr. Christopher Gagne


1979 - Melrose, Louisiana: The trailer of Clementine Hunter

Spiritual - Diane Monroe
Fleetin’ Blues - Diane Monroe
Blue and Disgusted (solo piano) - Memphis Slim
I Smell Trouble - arr. Diane Monroe
Naima - John Coltrane, arr. Charles Floyd
Devil Woman - Charles Mingus, arr. Charles Floyd
Devil Woman (reprise) - Charles Mingus, arr. Charles Floyd
Spiritual (reprise) - Diane Monroe


Christo Redentor - Duke Pearson, arr. Charles Floyd


1962 - Near Indianola, Mississippi: The home of Fannie Lou Hamer
Lamentations: Calvary Ostinato (solo cello) - Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson

1963 - Near Atlanta, Georgia: The  hospital room of Fannie Lou Hamer
Lamentations: Perpetual Motion (solo cello) - Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson
Canon - Charles Mingus, arr. Charles Floyd

The spirit of Sojourner Truth, 1851
Motherless Child (solo vibraphone) - Frederick Tillis, realized by Charles Floyd
Hold On - Traditional, arr. by Hugh Hinton

1964 - Near Indianola, Mississippi: The home of Fannie Lou Hamer
Lamentations: Fuguing Tune (solo cello) - Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson
Freedom Land - Traditional, arr. by Charles Floyd



Ju Young LeeJU-YOUNG LEE (Cellist) Ju-Young Lee, a native of Kansas City, Missouri, is a recent graduate of The Juilliard School, where he earned a bachelor’s degree for cello in 2013. He has studied under the tutelage of Joel Krosnick, David Soyer, and Felix Wang. He has given solo recitals and participated in chamber music performances in both the US and South Korea, in cities such as New York, Nashville, Seattle, Chestertown, MD, Blue Hill, ME, Brevard, NC, Steamboat Springs, CO, and Washington, DC. He was invited as a guest soloist with the Nashville Symphony, the Curb Youth Symphony, and as a rehearsal soloist with the New York Symphonic Arts Ensemble.



Mikael DarmanieMIKAEL DARMANIE (Piano) As a soloist MIKAEL DARMANIE has performed throughout the Americas, Europe, and the Caribbean. He has participated and won prizes in a number of regional and international competitions. Festival appearances have included High Peaks Festival, Pianofest in the Hamptons, Mozarteum, Mainly Mozart, and L’Acadèmie de Musique de Sion. He recently performed in master classes for Leon Fleisher, Mitsuko Uchida, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Jerome Lowenthal  and Menahem Pressler. As a member of the Warp Trio, he performs throughout the country in genres from jazz to hip hop to electronic music to DJ’ing. Since his debut as a conductor with the Carolina Chamber Symphony in 2008, he has performed throughout the U.S., conducting various piano concerti from the keyboard and symphonic works. As a composer, his works have been performed throughout the U.S. and he is a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow. He is currently a P.H.D. student at SUNY Stony Brook under the guidance of Gilbert Kalish and teaches undergraduate piano and music history and theory.

Michael ParolaMICHAEL PAROLA (Executive Director & Percussionist)Michael Parola received his Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the State University of New York at Purchase and his Master’s and Doctor of Musical Arts Degrees from the State University of New York at Stony Brook3. With both ensembles he has commissioned dozens of new chamber music trios for the unique instrumental combination of cello, piano and percussion with hundreds of performances and residency programs throughout the United States and at international venues in England, Russia, Ukraine and Australia. Orchestral concerto engagements include commissioning and performing with the Aequalis Trio the Chinary Ung Triple Concerto with the Phoenix, Honolulu, New Hampshire and Stony Brook Symphonies and also commissioning and performing with the Core Ensemble the Bernard Rands Triple Concerto with the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, Florida Philharmonic, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony and New Hampshire Symphony. His recordings have been broadcast internationally and can be heard on the New World, Albany and Centaur labels. Michael Parola served as percussion instructor at the Harid Conservatory of Music from 1993-1999, Florida Atlantic University from 1993-1998 and the Conservatory of Music at Lynn University from 1999-2008. In addition to his roles as Percussionist and Executive Director, Mr. Parola has served since 1995 as Executive Producer for nearly a dozen Core Ensemble chamber music theatre works; unique multi-genre programs combining chamber music with narrative theatre.

For more information on the Core Ensemble, go to


Shinnerrie JacksonSHINNERRIE JACKSON earned her Bachelors of Music at Oberlin Conservatory of Music and her MFA at the University of Tennessee where she is currently Assistant Professor of Theater. She can be seen in 30 Rock and in Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress. Previous theater productions include A Night with Janis Joplin (Arena Stage), Vanya,Sonia,Masha and Spike (Cincinnati Playhouse), Lady Day at Emerson Bar and Grill (Weathervane Theater).


Sojourner TruthSojourner Truth

Born Isabella Baumfree; (c. 1797 – November 26, 1883) Truth was an American abolitionist and women’s rights activist. She was born into slavery in Swartekill, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. After going to court to recover her son in 1828, she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man.

She gave herself the name Sojourner Truth in 1843 after she became convinced that God had called her to leave the city and go into the countryside “testifying the hope that was in her.” Her best-known speech was delivered extemporaneously, in 1851, at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. The speech became widely known during the Civil War by the title “Ain’t I a Woman?”, a variation of the original speech re-written by someone else using a stereotypical Southern dialect, whereas Sojourner Truth was from New York and grew up speaking Dutch as her first language. During the Civil War, Truth helped recruit black troops for the Union Army; after the war, she tried unsuccessfully to secure land grants from the federal government for formerly enslaved people (summarized as the promise of “forty acres and a mule”). She continued to fight on behalf of women and African Americans until her death. As her biographer Nell Irvin Painter wrote, “At a time when most Americans thought of slaves as male and women as white, Truth embodied a fact that still bears repeating: Among the blacks are women; among the women, there are blacks.”

A memorial bust of Truth was unveiled in 2009 in Emancipation Hall in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. She is the first African American woman to have a statue in the Capitol building. In 2014, Truth was included in Smithsonian magazine’s list of the “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time.”

Zora Neale HurstonZora Neale Hurston 

(January 7, 1891  – January 28, 1960) was an American author, anthropologist, and filmmaker. She portrayed racial struggles in the early-1900s American South and published research on hoodoo. The most popular of her four novels is Their Eyes Were Watching God, published in 1937. She also wrote more than 50 short stories, plays, and essays.

Hurston was born in Notasulga, Alabama, and moved with her family to Eatonville, Florida, in 1894. She later used Eatonville as the setting for many of her stories. In her early career, Hurston conducted anthropological and ethnographic research while a student at Barnard College and Columbia University. She had an interest in African-American and Caribbean folklore, and how these contributed to the community’s identity.

She also wrote fiction about contemporary issues in the Black community and became a central figure of the Harlem Renaissance. Her short satires, drawing from the African-American experience and racial division, were published in anthologies such as The New Negro and Fire!! After moving back to Florida, Hurston wrote and published her literary anthology on African-American folklore in North Florida, Mules and Men (1935), and her first three novels: Jonah’s Gourd Vine (1934); Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937); and Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939). Also published during this time was Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica (1938), documenting her research on rituals in Jamaica and Haiti.

Hurston’s works concerned both the African-American experience and her struggles as an African-American woman. Her novels went relatively unrecognized by the literary world for decades. Interest was revived in 1975 after author Alice Walker published an article, “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston” (later retitled “Looking for Zora”), in the March issue of Ms. magazine that year.

Hurston’s manuscript Every Tongue Got to Confess, a collection of folktales gathered in the 1920s, was published posthumously in 2001 after being discovered in the Smithsonian archives. Her nonfiction book Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”, about the life of Cudjoe Lewis (Kossola), was published posthumously in 2018.

Clementine HunterClementine Hunter

(Late December 1886 or early January 1887 – January 1, 1988) was a self-taught Black folk artist from the Cane River region of Louisiana, who lived and worked on Melrose Plantation.

Hunter was born into a Louisiana Creole family at Hidden Hill Plantation near Cloutierville, in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana. She started working as a farm laborer when young, and never learned to read or write. In her fifties, she began to sell her paintings, which soon gained local and national attention for their complexity in depicting Black Southern life in the early 20th century.

Initially she sold her first paintings for as little as 25 cents. But by the end of her life, her work was being exhibited in museums and sold by dealers for thousands of dollars. Clementine Hunter produced an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 paintings in her lifetime. Hunter was granted an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree by Northwestern State University of Louisiana in 1986, and she is the first African-American artist to have a solo exhibition at the present-day New Orleans Museum of Art. In 2013, director Robert Wilson presented a new opera about her, entitled Zinnias: the Life of Clementine Hunter, at Montclair State University in New Jersey.

Fannie Lou Hamer Fannie Lou Hamer 

(October 6, 1917 – March 14, 1977) was an American voting and women’s rights activist, community organizer, and a leader in the civil rights movement. She was the co-founder and vice-chair of the Freedom Democratic Party, which she represented at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. Hamer also organized Mississippi’s Freedom Summer along with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). She was also a co-founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus, an organization created to recruit, train, and support women of all races who wish to seek election to government office.

Hamer began civil rights activism in 1962, continuing until her health declined nine years later. She was known for her use of spiritual hymnals and quotes and her resilience in leading the civil rights movement for black women in Mississippi. She was extorted, threatened, harassed, shot at, and assaulted by racists, including members of the police, while trying to register for and exercise her right to vote. She later helped and encouraged thousands of African-Americans in Mississippi to become registered voters and helped hundreds of disenfranchised people in her area through her work in programs like the Freedom Farm Cooperative. She unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 1964 and the Mississippi State Senate in 1971. In 1970, she led legal action against the government of Sunflower County, Mississippi for continued illegal segregation.

Hamer died on March 14, 1977, aged 59, in Mound Bayou, Mississippi. Her memorial service was widely attended and her eulogy was delivered by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young. She was posthumously inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993.