Black History

Tales From Slave Journals Featured in Local Play

Former slave Sarah Gudger recalls when her father’s master walked in the fields, confided about his ungrateful children and possibly taken his own life.

Gudger, 121, tells another story about a distraught woman whose son got captured by the speculator, a person who sold free and enslaved blacks.

These and other stories will be showcased for Black History Month on Friday, Feb. 3 in a play called “Voices in the Dark,” which chronicles five of 2,300 narratives of former slaves chronicled as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Works Progress Administration” in the 1930s.

The uniqueness of this play at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland in College Park will be most of the cast are officials and employees with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), which promote recreational and open space programs in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.

“I am very familiar with the slave journals. I was always fascinated by what they could remember and how they shared their stories and what really happened because they are the ones who lived it,” said Dorothy Bailey, a member of the Prince George’s Planning Commission, who portrays Gudger in the play. “To be able to show that especially at this time so that people can see how far we’ve come. You just begin to appreciate all that some of our ancestors went through. It’s a lot of sadness, but also hope in those stories.”

Bailey and others performed the play last year in Silver Spring, but before fewer than 200 park and planning employees and their family and friends. This year, it’s open to the public at the Clarice Smith Center, which holds more than 600 seats.

Another difference for this week’s play is that it will feature children of slaves, portrayed by ChloCatrow, 13, and Joshua Fawole, 10.

“I am having so much fun because when they asked me I was little afraid I might mess up, but I said yes anyway,” said Joshua, who will perform in his first play. “I am very glad I said yes. I’m learning.”

That’s exactly what the playwright, producer and director Darrell Godfrey hopes to accomplish.

Godfrey, who started to work on the play three years ago, has done other theatrical work being part of the commission’s Black History Committee for 10 years.

“It’s a lot of work we’re doing,” said Godfrey, who works for the Montgomery County Planning Department. “I don’t care what race these folks are, they embrace the stories. They saw how important these stories were. We have coworkers and people who haven’t acted since high school. I hope the audience gets to see and learn just a small part of these slave narratives.”

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at http://theclarice.umd.edu/events/2017/voices-in-the-dark or by calling 301-405-2787. There will be two shows at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

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