slave narrative performance
From left are performers Carol Adams-Means and Brenda Clark.

ITC hosts performances of 1937 slave narrative

By Ashley Harris
Public Affairs Specialist

(March 20, 2007)--The UTSA Department of Communication and UTSA's Institute of Texan Cultures will present a play showcasing the lives of emancipated African-American women, "Suppertime on the Garr'y," at 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, March 24 and 25, and Saturday, April 7 at the ITC Share Cropper's House.

As part of Women's History month, the slave narratives of Texans Rebecca Thomas and Fannie Driver will be brought to life by Carol Adams-Means, instructor in the UTSA Department of Communication, and Brenda Clark of San Antonio College.

Thomas was 113 years old and Driver was 80 and living in east Austin when they took part in a Works Progress Administration (WPA) program during the 1930s. They were emancipated slaves whose narratives were recorded by Alfred Menn, who was hired to document the lives of former slaves who settled in various communities throughout the nation.

Adams-Means found the narratives while researching her dissertation on the social migration of African-Americans and feels they can help answer questions about the social progression of African-Americans in the 21st century.

"We don't have to cross borders, eons or millennia to touch this history," said Adams-Means. "The slave narratives are a tangible part of Texas and American history right in our backyards. These valuable pieces of our ancestry should be revived, exhibited and performed for ourselves and for our children. There is still so much that we need to learn about our history."

Although Thomas and Driver never met, Adams-Means and Clark constructed the play around the idea of a fictional meeting of the two women as they talk about their lives one afternoon on the "garr'y" (front porch). The play incorporates several key aspects of the two narratives, including the physical and psychological abuse of the slaves and descriptions of the slave labor they were forced to endure. The story also includes the lighter sides of their lives, including various celebrations and the jubilation when slaves learned of their freedom.

Adams-Means is planning a performance for Juneteenth (June 19), the day Texas slaves learned the Emancipation Proclamation had freed them. The performance is the first of an eight-part multimedia exhibition on African-American Texas history. UTSA alumni and current students have been heavily involved in the project and include Ja'net Rea and Shari Clayton (script development), Joseph T. King (multimedia) and Douglas Chan (slave narrative mapping project).

Admission to "Suppertime on the Garr'y" is included in the Institute of Texan Cultures entry fee: $7 for adults and $4 for children (ages 3-12), seniors and military with ID. The museum is at 801 S. Bowie St.

For more information, contact Carol Adams-Means at (210) 458-7730.

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