The Story of Margaret Garner
Among the most wrenching accounts of an enslaved American, the story of Margaret Garner reveals the consequences of bondage, particularly of sexual violence and violation. Seeking freedom through infanticide, Margaret Garner intended to prevent her two-year-old daughter from being returned to an all too familiar future of sexual slavery when in 1856 she escaped her enslavement in Kentucky by crossing the Ohio River into Cincinnati with her husband and children. Despite, or perhaps because of the horrific details of Margaret Garner’s brave resistance, much can be learned from her story. Although largely forgotten until Toni Morrison’s recent revivals, Margaret Garner’s life provides a foundation from which to discuss resistance for all women in both historical and contemporary contexts.
Most recently, the story has been revived in the opera Margaret Garner for which Toni Morrison wrote the libretto, and Richard Danielpour composed the music. Commissioned by the Cincinnati Opera, in collaboration with opera companies in Detroit and Philadelphia, Margaret Garner opened in 2005 to commemorate the one year anniversary of the opening of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.