Slavery Meets Freedom at The Forks OF The Roads ( A Look Back)

The living
history play Slavery Meets Freedom at the Forks of the Roads is an
outgrowth of a discussion within the Friends of the Forks of the Roads Society
Inc to develop a demonstration project of how Blacks can enter the tourism
arena from an economic development standpoint. We want to create alternative
tourism and hands on history experiences for tourists, visitors and local
people in the Miss-Lou area who are looking for the other real humanity side of
history.
Our focus
was first on conducting tours in the Natchez area, but we did not have the
necessary number of members to do so. Finally, we settle on a living history
play about both slavery and freedom. The Forks of the Roads is the perfect
complimentary site in contrast to the antebellum homes.
Use of the
term antebellum homes obscures and whitewashes true history that is based upon
human slavery evidenced by the abundance of extant plantation estates,
buildings, stories, literature, streets named after enslavers, annual
pilgrimage and Confederate Pageant and so on that makes Natchez a virtual
museum to slavery.
Members of
Friends of the Forks for the Roads Society Inc and Alcorn State University’s
British Literature English 312 Class students will bring 19th
Century Lower Mississippi Valley and Natchez-Vidalia slavery and freedom
history to life.
The Forks
of the Roads will be the setting for the upcoming living history play
production entitled Slavery Meets Freedom at the Forks of the Roads.
In a
setting reminiscent of the Theatro Campasino outdoor drama productions once
used by the late Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers organization to dramatize
the plight of California’s farm workers, members and supporters of Friends of
the Forks and Alcorn State University English 312 students will perform in an
outdoor theater setting at the Forks.
The Slavery
Meets Freedom at the Forks of the Roads stories opens in a cotton field
somewhere in Louisiana in the early 1800s. Traveling through the Forks of the
Roads at this time is the “Negro Trader,” and future United States President,
Andrew Jackson who will be portrayed by Michael Hasilip. Jackson has come to
Natchez from Tennessee to sell “slaves.”
Early
enslavement dealings in Natchez prior to the establishment of dealings at the
Forks of the Roads will be dramatized by bringing alive the character of the
long distance Maryland dealer, John Woolfolk, portrayed by Thom Rosenblum.
Then
entering the stage will be a number of runaway enslaved men and women
highlighted by Alcorn student Jonathan Lowe who brings alive the story of his
own enslaved great grandfather taken from oral narratives extant in his family.
The advent
of enslavement dealings at the Forks of the Roads beginning in the 1830s will
be brought to the stage by Friends of the Forks Society member David Dreyer, as
the king-pin of America’s internal long distance enslavement dealers, Isaac
Franklin, CEO of the Alexandria Virginia firm of Franklin and Armfield whose
building still exists as a National Historic Landmark at 1315 Duke St.
At this
point in the play, charming guest actress, Renee Shakespeare of Jackson
Mississippi, with a twist of her own personal life experience as motivation,
presents a gripping and gut wrenching portrayal of the fictional Fancy Lady of
color, Charlotte, who is running away from white plantation owners and
enslavement dealers who have been using her for their sexual pleasures.
Following
the Fancy Lady act, Alcorn students will bring to the stage true narratives
stories of enslaved persons who escaped from the Natchez and Louisiana areas
making it to freedom, even all the way to Canada on the Underground Railroad.
Enslavement
dealings at the Forks of the Roads in the 1850s will be highlighted by bringing
alive the character of Richmond Virginia’s long distance dealer John D. James,
brother of David and Thomas James, owners of that portion of the Forks of the
Road property now owned by the City of Natchez where the play production will
be staged.
In the
early 1860s slavery will meet freedom at the Forks of the Roads when Natchez
surrenders to the United States Army during the Civil War. Thousands of
enslaved people will self-emancipate by deliberately running away from their
places of enslavement in Mississippi and Louisiana and getting to freedom
behind the lines of the United States Army occupying Natchez. Hundreds of
former enslaved able-bodied men will intentionally join the United States Army
as Self-emancipating Freedom Fighters. They will historically become known as
U. S. Colored Troops of African decent.
To bring
alive the Civil War’s stories of the self-emancipating freedom actions of
enslaved people, the play producers will set up the Natchez/Vidalia “Contraband
Camps” scene at the Forks. Women, children and older men members and supporters
of the Friends of the Forks Society will portray the thousands of enslaved
runaway people who gained their freedom by self-emancipating and making it to
the United States Army’s “Contraband Camps.”
Adding more
exciting reality details, producers will also portray a set up of the United
States Army’s Fort McPherson once reaching its outer perimeters as far out as
Natchez College, then over to B Street along Rankin Street and back to the
Mississippi River Bluffs. Original portions of the Fort can still be seen at
various locations, particularly in the City Cemetery and along Linton Avenue’s
high embankment that was the outer perimeter of the inner Fort defense.
The role
that self-emancipating enslaved able-bodied men played in gaining and fighting
for their own freedom from slavery will be highlighted by the living history
performances of Alcorn student Mareese Rose and Forks Friends Society member
Charles Wright. Rose will portray the Fayette Mississippi enslaved father J. T.
Tims, who with his family and others in reaction to the enslaving master
beating Tims’ wife, runaway from their Jefferson County place of enslavement to
Rodney Mississippi and on to Natchez “from Sunday to Sunday” after being
refused passage on a United States Navy gunboat during the Civil War. Tims then
joined the United States Army and his wife was hired as cook for the same.
In his own
manner, Charles Wright will bring his great Grandfather Nathan Wright back to
the Forks of the Roads as a member of the United States Army’s 58th
Infantry African Decent once stationed at the Forks of the Roads. Nathan along
with his brothers George and James were runaways from the Rucker Plantation and
were part of the 3,000+ Black United States Army troops who occupied Natchez.
Nathan
Wright was the father of the revolutionary African decent, prolific and
internationally known author of Black Power and many other books, Adams County
born and Natchez own son of the soil, Richard Wright. Richard Wright’s wife’s
father was also a member of the United States Army during the Civil War.
In the
final act of excitement at the Forks of the Roads, male members of the Friends
of the Forks and Alcorn students will portray the “three hundred” Freedom
Fighters of the Sixth Colored Heavy Artillery who on February 7, 1864 at 2:30
P. M., at the double quick came from Fort McPherson, descended to the
Under-the-Hill Landing and crossed the Mississippi River to Vidalia and fought
“twelve hundred to fifteen hundred” Confederate Army troops.
In between
the five acts of Slavery Meets Freedom at the Forks of the Roads a
chorus group consisting of at least Friends of the Forks members Ralph
Jennings, Jessie Herbert, Marie Jenkins and Arella Bacons will perform the
following slavery songs of freedom. Steal Away, Oh Freedom, Swing Low Sweet
Chariot. They will lead in the John Brown version of the Battle Hymn of the
Republic with audience participation celebrating the story of the triumph of
Freedom over Slavery during the Civil War.
Slavery
Meets Freedom at the Forks of the Roads will be supported by a cast of
other Alcorn State University English 312 students, Friends of the Forks
Society members and supporters whose names are not mentioned in this media and
general community announcement release.
Slavery
Meets Freedom at the Forks of the Roads performances will be on April 9
and April 16, 2005 at 3:00 P. M.
There is no
cost of admission. Attendees can feel free to make charitable donations.
Rainy
weather may force the production to be held at an indoor location that will be
announced publicly.
Released by: Ser Seshs Ab Heter-CM Boxley, Coordinator of Friends
of the Forks of the Roads Society. Ph: 601-442-4719. Email: Forksyaroads@aol.com
Award Winning Ser Seshsh Ab Heter-CM Boxley
'You know that you are in trouble when you allow
the same people who have historically oppressed you tell you your history and
define your reality"... Dr. Runoko Rashidi
601-442-4719
P. O. Box 2188
Natchez, Ms. 39121
FB Ser Seshs Ab Heter-Boxley,
FB Forks of Roads America's Domestic "Slave"Market Natchez
Leader of Equal Human
Commemorations Campaign to
"Desegregate" History/Culture in Mississippi-Central Louisiana
Pertaining to Chattel Slavery, Black Civil War Freedom Fighters,
19th and 20th Centuries Civil Rights and Diversity.
Former Public Service Administrator
Veteran of San Francisco
Bay Area
Civil & Human Rights Movements
Former Ph.d Candidate Antioch Ohio
University Without Walls San Francisco
Holds California Community College Public
Services/Administration Credential
Masters Urban and Regional Planning &
B. A. Sociology California State University San Jose,
AA Business College of San Mateo Ca.,
Former Community College Instructor,
Former Multli-Culture Community Development CEO Redwood City Ca.,
Author & Publisher! Enabled Capacity Of Natchez Ms. Deacons For Defense & Justice
To Defend The Natchez People Who Waged "One Of The Most Successful
Economic Boycotts In Civil Rights History." Same Tri-part Methods were
Applied Throughout Mississippi to win modern Civil Rights!