Prince George's CountyWilliam J. Ford

Prince George’s Groups Collaborate for Two-Year Project on ‘Freedom Stories’

A descendant of a family enslaved on a former White Marsh plantation in Prince George’s County described slavery in one word: theft.

The comment came from Sandra Green Thomas, who’s mentioned in a book written by William G. Thomas III about families who trace their lineage to the Maryland jurisdiction now home to the state’s second-largest population.

The book, “A Question of Freedom: The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War,” will serve as a nucleus to educate, inform and enlighten about stories of slavery. More specifically, the program will highlight families who resided in Prince George’s that fought for their freedom through Maryland and federal courts starting in the late 1700s.

“Enslaved families challenged slavery as a matter of law. Challenging it as unjust. Challenging it as contradictory to natural law,” Thomas said Thursday at Joe’s Movement Emporium in Mount Rainier. “In many ways, we have a story of American history that left out these kind of stories.”

Part of a two-year project on slavery will focus on a book written by William G. Thomas III, "A Question of Freedom: The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation's Founding to the Civil War." (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Part of a two-year project on slavery will focus on a book written by William G. Thomas III, “A Question of Freedom: The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War.” (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

Thomas’s book will be part of a two-year project to include various programs, in-person discussions and other events led by agencies and groups from Prince George’s.

Joe’s Movement, a cultural arts center, plans to showcase a play next year based on the book led by award-winning playwright Psalmayene 24, whose birth name is Gregory Morrison. He’s conducted several directorial, acting and playwriting have been commissioned at various places such as the Mosaic Theater Company and The Kennedy Center.

The native of New York City’s Brooklyn borough, who colleagues call “Psalm,” also serves as an adjunct professor at Bowie State University.

“Part of my function is to enable the audience to experience catharsis,” he said. “I can’t think of a better story, a better narrative than the stories that exist in this book. My artistic vision and mission is to highlight little-known stories that illuminate the Black experience. This is right up my alley.”

The county’s Office of Human Rights will lead a unity rally Friday at Seabrook Seventh Day Adventist Church in Lanham, themed “Spread love, stop hate.”

The county’s Memorial Library System will host several programs including an Oct. 27 event at Bowie Branch Library featuring Chris Haley, co-director of “Unmarked.” The film, released last year, focuses on the disappearance of African-American gravesites and burial grounds in the South.

Haley plans to speak in Bowie to reclaim and honor burial sites of enslaved people in the mid-Atlantic region.

“The collaboration helps us to inform and educate people through the arts,” said Roberta Phillips, CEO of the county’s library system. “When you think of art, you think of entertainment, but you don’t think about all the things you would learn from the arts.”

To learn more about the two-year project or to participate, go to www.joesmovement.org or call 301-699-1819.

William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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