Mrs. Mary Fears has made it her mission to accurately portray the impact that Blacks have made on American history.
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
At age 89, Mrs. Mary Fears continues to educate people about African American history and the Civil War.
A passion of the retired librarian turned author, amateur historian and amateur genealogist is to do re-enactments of Civil War events, highlighting the role that African Americans played in those events through an organization she co-founded with her late husband, Joel Fears, in 2003 called Voices of Pride-Re-enactors.
Mrs. Fears is the director of Voices of Pride Re-Enactors.
The organization’s next performance is “The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass” on Friday, Feb. 28, at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the Museum of Arts & Sciences, (MOAS), 352 S. Nova Road, Daytona Beach.
Tickets are $15 for the evening program, $10 for the matinee and $7 for students. The event is presented by the DeLand African American Museum of Arts and Sciences, but it will be held at MOAS in Daytona Beach.
“It’s important to do these types of events and others because almost all of African American history is left out of textbooks,’’ Mrs. Fears stated.
“You go to school for years and hardly hear about any of these people and what they did. It’s important that we educate people, especially our children.”
Anderson as Douglass
Douglass escaped slavery to become one of the foremost figures in American history. He was an abolitionist, orator, businessman, author, journalist, and social reformer.
“We’ve always had Douglass in different re-enactments. Now we’re showcasing him. Douglass is one of the most important figures in our history. We also want people to know that the event is in Daytona and not DeLand,” Mrs. Fears stressed.
Daytona resident and Mainland High alum (Class of 1973), John Anderson will play Douglass. Anderson is Mrs. Fears’ son.
“We’re also showcasing Anderson who is an excellent impersonator of Douglass. He speaks with the oratory skills and eloquence which Douglass is said to have had,” Mrs. Fears noted.
Interest in battle
Mrs. Fears spent 30 years with the Volusia County school district as a librarian.
She became interested in the Civil War re-enactments when she and husband Joel visited the Battle of Olustee re-enactment in 2001. The battle site is right outside of Ocala National Park.
The Battle of Olustee was the largest battle in Florida during the Civil War. The battle included three Black Union Army Regiments in the North Carolina First Regiment, North Carolina Eight Regiment and the famous Massachusetts 54th.
Mrs. Fears recalled, “I noticed there weren’t any Black people in it. We met some of the actors and they asked us why aren’t Black people participating in these re-enactments? It started me to do research and I started learning.
“My husband and I started the organization to perform these activities to show how Blacks served in the Civil War as both slaves and free people.”
Today, Voices of Pride Re-enactors consists of 20 actors. The group has performed at libraries, schools, colleges, museums and other sites at the request of businesses and organizations.
Mrs. Fears has written five books covering African American history, including “Civil War and Living History Reenacting about People of Color” and “Slaves Ancestral Research: It’s Something Else.”
She also wrote a book on her own family’s history “Jackson-Moore Family History and Genealogy,” which is currently out of print.
Mrs. Fears said she’s writing a book about her late husband, Joel Fears, Sr.
She is the mother of two sons – Joel Fears, Jr, and John Anderson. She also has a grandson, John Anderson III.
‘Filling the Gap’
Another major project was “Filling the Gap,” a docudrama that was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in 2011. The docudrama, which was aired on the local PBS affiliate, was produced by the Fears.
“Filling the Gap presented true stories of Black Americans in the late 1800s. She is a lifelong member of the NAACP and has fought for Black history to be told correctly in schools.
Mrs. Fears also has been honored by the Afro-American Historical & Genealogy Society.
Grew up in Sanford
She was born Mary Jackson in Pelham, Georgia, but grew up in Sanford, Florida during the segregated South. She is a graduate of the historic Crooms Academy.
“I didn’t see any major racial incidents. I did go into a store and noticed that if a White person came into the store that they were served by the clerk before the Black person,” Mrs. Fears recalled.
“Blacks rode in the back of the bus; we walked to school. White kids rode buses to school. We drank from different water fountains. That’s the way it was in those times. We had unpaved streets in our neighborhoods. We did, however, have a lot of Black-owned businesses. We had our own drugstores as well.”
Mrs. Fears earned her bachelor’s degree in business education from then Bethune-Cookman College in 1951 and a master’s from Florida State University in library sciences in 1974.
Mrs. Fears, whose hobbies includes sewing, is a member of Stewart-Memorial United Methodist Church and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
For tickets to the “Life and Times of Frederick Douglass,” call the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach at 386-255-0285. Tickets will be available at the door