Free Man of Color

by
Charles Smith
Free Man of Color
Kareem Ferguson, Frank Ashmore & Kathleen Mary Carthy
Director
Scenic Design
Costume Design
Lighting Design
Sound Design
Properties Design & Set Dressing
Production Stage Manager
Public Relations
Technical Director
Set Construction
Scenic Artist
Production Crew

Light Board Operator
Sound Board Operator
Stage Crew
Key Art
Production Photography

Dan Bonnell
David Potts
A. Jeffrey Schoenberg
Chris Wojcieszyn
Cricket S. Myers
MacAndMe
Leesa Freed
David Elzer/Demand PR
Robert T. Kyle
Red Colgrove
Lacey Anzelc
A.C. Bradshaw, Christopher Rivera
Carter Weathers
Kathryn Horan
Heather L. Waters
Brie Quinn Renta
Ricky Vodka
Michael Lamont

CAST
(in order of appearance)

Robert Wilson
John Newton
Jane Wilson


Frank Ashmore
Kareem Ferguson
Kathleen Mary Carthy

PLACE

Athens, Ohio

TIME

1824 to 1828


John Newton Templeton and
the American Colonization Society

Charles Smith’s play Free Man of Color is the story of John Newton Templeton, the fourth African American to earn a college degree in the United States and the first in Ohio. Templeton was born around 1805 and raised on a South Carolina plantation owned by Colonel John Means, who later changed his views about slavery. Templeton’s family was freed in 1813, and they moved to Adams County, Ohio. With the aid and encouragement of the president of
“Slavery is one of the greatest evils existing in our day, and for the abolishing of which, was the object in forming the Colonization Society; it is an evil which has long existed, its decline must therefore be gradual, in order that its total overthrow be permanent.”

From The Claims of Liberia, John Newton Templeton’s Ohio University graduation speech on July 4, 1829. The speech promotes the idea of Liberia as a home for freed African Americans, but Templeton later reversed that stance.
Ohio University, Reverend Robert G. Wilson, Templeton enrolled in 1824. Unlike many institutions of higher education at this time, Ohio University, had no restrictive clauses pertaining to race; any male youth who qualified for acceptance was admitted. Templeton worked his way through college maintaining a superior academic record and was an especially active member of the Athenian Literary Society. One of ten graduating students in 1828, Templeton delivered a graduation speech entitled The Claims of Liberia.

Around this time, the American Colonization Society (ACS) was gaining prominence and influence in this country. Formed in 1816, the ACS encouraged free African Americans to return to Africa, and they helped found the colony of Liberia on the western coast of Africa as a place for free blacks. Starting in 1821, thousands of free black Americans moved to Liberia from the United States. For the next 20 years, Liberia grew and established economic stability, closely controlled by the ACS, culminating in Liberia establishing its independence in 1847. By 1867, the ACS had assisted in the movement of more than 13,000 Americans to Liberia.

The ACS, however, consisted of unlikely alliances. Some members were Quakers who supported the abolishing of slavery and who, with many blacks, also believed that blacks faced a much better chance to lead fully free lives in Africa instead of the U.S. where legislated limits on black freedom were still enforced. Other members included slaveholders who favored slavery. They viewed this relocation as a way to avoid rebellions by slaves and organized revolts by free blacks. Still others opposed slavery but did not favor integration of blacks into American society and were concerned that an influx of black workers would take job opportunities from white citizens.

Templeton originally supported the relocation efforts, but he later reversed his stance. After graduation, he taught in Chillicothe, Ohio, and in 1834, he became one of the officers of the Chillicothe (Colored) Anti-Slavery Society. He finally settled in Pittsburgh in 1836, where he became the first teacher and principal of the African School, the first school for black children in the city. In addition to his relentless political activities, Templeton was co-editor of The Mystery, an Afro-American newspaper dedicated to the fight for freedom and political emancipation. He died unexpectedly in 1851 and did not witness the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862. The ACS was not formally dissolved for another 100 years until 1964.


SPECIAL THANKS


Art Institute of California Joe Brancato of Penguin Rep
Brad Brown Michael Cabler Tom Frey Zuleyma Pinelo
Haydee Reyes Phil Torf & House of Props Wadler Data Systems