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Flushing Town Hall to celebrate Juneteenth with Broadway star André De Shields as Frederick Douglass in live performance

Flushing Town Hall Juneteenth André De Shields
Broadway star André De Shields as Frederick Douglass in his 2021 performance at Flushing Town Hall. (Photo by Lia Chang)

In observance of Juneteenth, Flushing Town Hall will feature Broadway star André De Shields, who will reprise his role as the esteemed abolitionist leader and influential thinker in two live performances of his self-crafted solo show, “André De Shields is Frederick Douglass: Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory,” on Sunday, June 19, at 2 and 7 p.m. 

The Tony, Grammy and Emmy award-winning De Shields first debuted his show for Flushing Town Hall audiences in February of 2021. It was the culminating event in the cultural institution’s “Black History Trilogy” series, and De Shields was the first artist to perform live from the venue stage following FTH’s physical closure during New York’s COVID shutdown. 

De Shields’ livestreamed performance, originally slated to come down after 48 hours, was extended for an additional two weeks of viewing in response to popular demand.

De Shields’ appearance this June marks 157 years since Douglass himself appeared at Flushing Town Hall in 1865 to deliver a speech titled “The Past and Present,” in which he addressed the role of African Americans in antebellum America.

“Though Douglass began his life as a slave, through heroic effort, he became one of America’s most important and historically influential icons,” De Shields said.  

This year’s performances of De Shields as Frederick Douglass are presented as part of the monthlong Queens Rising celebration, which showcases the best of the borough’s cultural offerings and creative diversity, and in honor of Juneteenth.

A longstanding African American holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, Juneteenth was not officially designated a federal holiday until last year, following decades of activism and 2021’s massive Black Lives Matter movement.

The Flushing Town Hall showings will open with a Gospel Juneteenth presentation by Chuk Fowler and Company, made possible with support by Cross Cultural Council. The presentation will invite audiences to reflect on the significance of Juneteenth with images, words and songs, including the hymn, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” — more commonly known as the “Black National Anthem.”

Born in Harlem, Fowler first made a name for himself after twice winning amateur night at the famed Apollo Theater. He went on to build a 40-year career performing in Harlem nightclubs, theaters and hotels throughout the city and with the United States military in Europe and Japan. He also taught for many years as a music teacher in New York City public schools.

In a career spanning more than half a century, De Shields has acquired a number of sobriquets, among them —”Broadway Deity,” “Professional Charmer” and “Papa Dré.” 

A showstopper at age 76, De Shields was the triple-crown winner of the 2019 award season, garnering Tony, Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk and Grammy awards for his universally praised role as Hermes, Messenger to the Gods, in “Hadestown.”

De Shields has also distinguished himself as a director, philanthropist and educator. His defining theatrical performances include roles in the original Broadway productions of “The Full Monty” (Tony Award nomination), “Play On!” (Tony Award nomination), “Ain’t Misbehavin” (Emmy Award) and the titular role in “The Wiz.” 

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