‘Riders of the Orphan Train’ presentation set
FRANKLIN — The Alex P. Allain Memorial Franklin Branch of the St. Mary Parish Library will hold a one-hour multi-media program titled, “Riders of the Orphan Train,” on April 28. The event is planned from 6 to 8 p.m. at the library located at 206 Iberia St.
Free and open to the public, the presentation is intended for mature audiences, according to the library’s news release. Relatives and acquaintances of Orphan Train riders are especially invited to attend and share their stories with the audience.
The program combines live music by Phillip Lancaster and Alison Moore, video montage with archival photographs and interviews of survivors, and a dramatic reading of the 2012 novel “Riders on the Orphan Train” by award-winning author Alison Moore, the news release states. Although the program is about children, it is designed to engage audiences, and to inform, inspire and raise awareness about this little-known part of history.
Between 1854 and 1929 more than 250,000 orphans and unwanted children were taken out of New York City and given away at train stations across America. Children were sent to every state in the continental United States; the last train went to Sulphur Springs, Texas in 1929.
This “placing out” system was originally organized by Methodist minister Charles Loring Brace and the Children’s Aid Society of New York. His mission was to rid the streets and overcrowded orphanages of homeless children and provide them with an opportunity to find new homes.
Many of the children were not orphans but “surrendered” by parents too impoverished to keep them. The New York Foundling Hospital, a Catholic organization, also sent out children to be placed in Catholic homes. This 76-year experiment in child relocation is filled with the entire spectrum of human emotion and reveals a great deal about the successes and failures of the American Dream, the news release stated.
Moore is a former assistant professor of English/creative writing in the Master of Fine Arts Creative Writing Program at the University of Arizona and a current humanities scholar. The Austin, Texas resident has been touring nationally since 1998 with the “Riders on the Orphan Train” that is currently the official outreach program for the National Orphan Train Complex Museum and Research Center.
Lancaster, an Arkansas native, studied art and music at L’Ecole De Beaux Arts in Angers, France. He became a member of a bluegrass band that traveled and played throughout France and produced an album titled “Bluegrass Oldies Ltd./Traveling Show.”
Upon returning to the U.S., he met three Arkansas musicians and the acoustic quartet “Still on the Hill” was formed. The group performed at national and international folk festivals.
He is a co-producer of the documentary film “Gospel, Biscuits & Gravy” for the Arkansas Heritage Foundation. He has been touring nationally since 1998 with the “Riders on the Orphan Train.”
In 2012, Moore and Lancaster received the Charles Loring Brace Award for helping to preserve the stories of the Orphan Trains.
For more information on the program call the library at 337-828-5364.