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A POST RECONSTRUCTION PLAY
Trip down Memory Lane
Scenes 1-4 Part 1
Setting: New Orleans, Louisiana in the 1890s.
Scene 1 entitled: To the Theater We Go!
James- (running up to her) Hey gal! Where you think you going?
Sherry- I’m going to the theater.
James- Which one?
Sherry- The one in the French Quarters of course. Do you like my fabric its so beautiful. It was a gift from my father he’s French you know. I’m what you call a quadroon. My mother was ………….
James- (cuts her off) The one in the French Quarters?!
Sherry- Yeah, that what I said.
James- but that’s whites only!
Sherry- So, I’m three quarters white!
James- 2 quarters, 3 quarters and a half still ain’t enough. Just one drop of Black blood makes you black in this here country.
Sherry- I don’t care. I am just as white as most white folks and even whiter than some. I’m only 1/8th black. I’m French mostly not really African.
James- Joseph the shoemaker told me we is all from Africa even them white folks originates in Africa long time ago.
Sherry- Horse manure. I ain’t black! I don’t even live in a black neighborhood I live near Jews, Germans, and other white folks and Creoles like myself. There is a huge difference between us. You’ll see.
Sherry- You gonna make me late. Well might as well tell ya. You’ll find out soon enough.
James- Find out what???
Sherry- You know that law they passed in 1890 that requires us Mulattos and Quadroons to ride different train cars as full whites.
James- Yeah. Them Jim Crow laws. K.
Sherry- That’s gone change soon.
Sherry- Well we got a committee formed and Henry Demas the Senator is gone speak on our behalf to the Senate.
James- For who? For our people to finally get equal rights.
Sherry- No! Creoles! He said we should be able to assimilate into the white race and we are going to be able to ride them train cars and be with our white families. We just use to better, ya know. Separate but equal ain’t gonna apply to us.
James- Girl, when you gone wake up they hate that drop of black blood in your skin. I don’t care what they say. You’ll see, they try to remind you every chance they get that you ain’t nothing but another no count nigger. They only give you an inch better than me cause they want you to believe you better than me cause they know there is strength in unity and numbers. Divide and conquer. When will you Creoles, quadroons and mulattos learn! (Shakes head)
Sherry- You’ll see just wait.. We don’t put all our chickens in one basket. Homer Plessy is our 2nd plan and he’s going to test the segregation laws. We going to gain access to those White only areas watch. Mark the day June 7, 1892 in your recollection. Cause that’s the day people gone be talking about for years. (laugh) Well I’ve got to go.. Can’t say that I’ll be seeing ya.
(Walks away, both depart in opposite directions.)
Scene 2: Courtroom of Plessy vs. United States
Characters: Judge John Ferguson, District Attorney, and Defense Attorney.
Opening argument of the Prosecution Attorney- Your Honor we stand before you today because this man Homer Plessy on the day of June 7, 1892 in New Orleans, Louisiana bought a first-class ticket to Covington, Louisiana, which is a small town near Mississippi. I don’t even think he was even going there, but that neither here no there. He took a seat in a coach that had signs posted designating that area as whites only. The conductor order him to vacate the seat and move to a coach assigned for persons of his color. He refused to do so, therefore the police were called and he was arrested for violation of the law that states that there are separate but equal public accommodations. He is therefore guilty of such. The laws are in place for a reason the odors alone are just cause to reinforce the laws of the land. Think of the health costs of this reality.
Opening Argument for the Defense Attorney- Your honor, Judge Ferguson we do not dispute the fact that my client Mr. Plessy attempted to seat himself in that section. We however want to expose the absurdity of the law, which the prosecution mentioned. It is that absurd law of separate but equal, which made the railroad conductor an autocrat of caste, armed with the power of state to decide which passengers were white and which were not using only his eyes to measure racial purity. I hope to prove that is absurd! That it is not reasonable to attempt to enforce arbitrary designations of race. I will argue that this law and doctrine of separate but equal imposes a badge of servitude on Plessy, as well as, several other Mulattos with Black Ancestry and deprives them of their privileges and immunities of citizenship.
Judge John Ferguson- I have heard your arguments gentlemen and have decided my ruling. I will rule as follows: the foul odors of blacks in close quarters made the law a reasonable exercise of the state’s police powers to protect the health safety, welfare, and morals of the public. Therefore he is guilty of violating this law.
(End of SceneJ )
Scene 3 The Narrative Outcome Perspectives WBGA
Narrator 1- As you can guess that was not the end of the argument, they appealed and the Louisiana courts upheld the original ruling, therefore, they appealed to the US Supreme Court to Judge Henry Brown in 1896. He ruled that the practice of school segregation in Boston Massachusetts in the decision of Robert v. City of Boston found that segregation was in the best interest of all children and that prejudices were not created by law and therefore should not be changed by law. This was needless to say a huge blow that white supremacy could not be challenged in any of the courts of law. It destroyed any illusions that the mulattos held in assimilating in to white society. Don’t worry folks as we know when one door closes another opens. They turned from mulatto elites to black elites. They began to focus their attentions under this guise. The only equal in the doctrine of separate but equal seems to have been with the collection of taxes, with blacks being required to pay the same portions of their incomes as whites for a system that gave them less in return. Blacks were not given separate facilities but fewer faculties, resources and opportunity. Needless to say, it sucked!
Narrator 2- Update! We maybe down but we are most certainly not out! Plantation mission had a long sorted history of political and social oppression. Yeah they may have a history of decimating indigenous folks ie, Indians, Mexicans, Africans in order to furbish their South images. They had in Atlanta the Cotton States and International Exposition in 1895to showcase the strides of race relations. Events such as those hoped to lure John D. Rockefeller, Henry Mellon, and J. Pierpont Morgan who were involved in the southern railroad system to the South. They chose Booker T. Washington to represent the Negroes and their cause. He delivered a speech on Sept. 1895 called the Atlanta Compromise, that made him two things a famous black man and an influential black man. Let’s see how it plays out remember not everybody is gonna agree with him. Remember black elitism has been born. (end scene)
Scene 4: W.E.B vs. Booker T.
Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Board of Directors and Citizens:
One-third of the population of the South is of the Negro race. A ship lost at sea for many days suddenly sighted a friendly vessel. From the mast of the unfortunate vessel was seen a signal, “Water, water; we die of thirst!” The answer from the friendly vessel at once came back, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” A second time the signal, “Water, water; send us water!” ran up from the distressed vessel, and was answered, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” And a third and fourth signal for water was answered, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” The captain of the distressed vessel, at last heeding the injunction, cast down his bucket, and it came up full of fresh, sparkling water from the mouth of the Amazon River. To those of my race who depend on bettering their condition in a foreign land or who underestimate the importance of cultivating friendly relations with the Southern white man, who is their next-door neighbor, I would say: “Cast down your bucket where you are”— cast it down in making friends in every manly way of the people of all races by whom we are surrounded.
In conclusion, may I repeat that nothing in thirty years has given us more hope and encouragement, and drawn us so near to you of the white race, as this opportunity offered by the Exposition; and here bending, as it were, over the altar that represents the results of the struggles of your race and mine, both starting practically empty-handed three decades ago, I pledge that in your effort to work out the great and intricate problem which God has laid at the doors of the South, you shall have at all times the patient, sympathetic help of my race; only let this he constantly in mind, that, while from representations in these buildings of the product of field, of forest, of mine, of factory, letters, and art, much good will come, yet far above and beyond material benefits will be that higher good, that, let us pray God, will come, in a blotting out of sectional differences and racial animosities and suspicions, in a determination to administer absolute justice, in a willing obedience among all classes to the mandates of law. This, coupled with our material prosperity, will bring into our beloved South a new heaven and a new earth.
Commentary- After this speech the Governor of Georgia stepped up to the podium to shake his hands and the crowd gave him a thunderous applause. The ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION reported the whole speech is a platform upon which blacks and whites can stand with full justice to each other. He became king of the Blacks. This speech may have allay the fears and anxiety of the Whites, but it little to address the needs and actual concerns of blacks. They needed to play the role of peons to develop themselves into worthy citizens one day. Now this speech did not sit well with everyone enter the ring W.E.B. Dubois and black elitism, Black Nationalism or separatism such as bishop of the CME Church L.H. Holsey, who suggested that Oklahoma or New Mexico and other states out West be designated for African American settlement and government. There were some still elitist that wanted to assimilate into white society so Black nationalism was a momentary reaction. However, something had to be done about Booker T Washington. Enter W.E.B. Dubois and the Souls of Black Folks.
(Enter W.E.B. Dubois)
WEB- Tuskegee is the capital of the Negro nation. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others. . . . One ever feels his twoness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warrings ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. I propose that an intellectual elite of well-educated Black men and women, the talented tenth, take on leadership of the race. It is by their gifts and graces that they can instruct and guide the people leading them towards higher civilization. On June of 1905 I will issue a call for a select group of black men to meet in the vicinity of Buffalo, New York. We will be called the Niagara Movement. Let it be known we oppose the accomodationist agenda of one Booker T. Washington. We want universal suffrage, abolition of segregation, social equality, and recognition of the highest academic training for all races. The framework for the NAACP was born in 1910 by which some many of young gifted blacks are afforded the opportunity for higher education. (exit)
(End scene) (Stay Tuned for the Next Scenes)