Update On Univ. of Missouri Graduate Theatre Department Play Development Project: “FREEDOM SUMMER”

Back at work on the Freedom Summer play with Ricardo Khan and Sibu Mamba. Of course, since my first and only novel (thus far, anyway) is about Freedom Summer, I’ve been spinning around in my brain to come up with NEW STUFF that I didn’t use in “Freshwater Road.” We’ve covering the same history so I absolutely wanted to find or try to remember any and everything that I did not use in “Freshwater Road.” This is challenging. I’ve had to open a new research vein going into a different part of the state of Mississippi with a slightly different geography and a slightly different history. I’m writing about the Delta now, an area of the state I did NOT touch in “Freshwater Road.”

When you think of Mississippi, you think of cotton and you usually think of the Delta, that rich land that gave rise to the Cotton industry and gobbled up slaves like a starving giant. Chewed up and spit out! Oppressive? Very. Cruel? Very. So at the end of slavery, many black people left the south searching for any little place that would allow life to flourish without the predatory overseer, the soulless slave owner who thought nothing of selling his own flesh and blood. From slavery, we arrive at sharecropping, which is basically slavery with bells on.

Somehow, from all of this agony, a people began to regroup and move forward in spite of herculean efforts to stop that from happening. But, the barn door was open just a crack and we began pushing through. I’m working/writing about a place I visited in the mid-60’s: HOLMES COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI. This is drafting now so we don’t know what will be in the finished product but this place had black land ownership, had people who had thrown off fear and depression and aimed for the County Courthouse to heal their own souls and to demand their rights as citizens. One of the things I loved about Holmes County back in the day was that local farmers protected civil rights workers and themselves. They sat on their porches with shotguns to protect us and themselves. They never provoked. They never attacked. They defended. God Bless those courageous folks.

Yes, Mississippi will always be in my heart and soul. It is the mirror of America. Lessons to be learned and hopefully not repeated. Sadly, I have my doubts that we are strong enough to NOT repeat the past. Let us pray and let us defend our values.


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