Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Insurrection in Springfield - John Brown and Frederick Douglass have a chat.


 
In November 1847, two famous abolitionists met in Springfield, Massachusetts, to discuss a bloody revolt against slavery.  A Southern attack on Ft. Sumter resulted in the Civil War in another thirteen years, but the rebellion against the status quo envisioned on this pivotal night by a black man and a white man in a marathon meeting proposed an alternate future.

A future that, in part, did not happen, or was at least delayed. 

 
This event is the scene of my one-act play Insurrection in Springfield, written to be presented for middle and high school students, commissioned by Shera Cohen of In the Spotlight, Inc., and supported in part by a grant from the Springfield Cultural Council, a local agency supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. 
 
John Brown and Frederick Douglass spent a long night of frank discussion and clashing opinions. Brown, one of the city’s leading abolitionists, would soon depart for Kansas, where he and his appointed group of vigilantes murdered several men in an attack on a pro-slavery settlement.

For these two men, their means to an end differed wildly, but on this night of tense debate, neither had a crystal ball. 

But we know what happened next, and that makes the historical event all the more striking.

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