18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:
Friday, April 5, 1913: Tonight expect to stand before an audience and make them smile. I caught a fish this afternoon, and I didn’t’ go a fishing either.
Our play went off pretty well, although we did make some slight mistakes. I cut quite a splash after I was all fixed up. We made over twenty dollars, but our expenses come out of that.
This is the stage in the McEwensville Community Center that Grandma would have stood on a hundred years ago today. Back then the stage was deeper and had curtains. In recent years, the back part of the stage was converted into a storage area.
I can almost picture the room filled with an attentive audience sitting on rows of chairs.
Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:
Yeah!—the class play went well. $20 from ticket sales doesn’t sound like much—but in 2013 dollars it would be the equivalent of about $500 today.
I bet Grandma in blackface, playing the role of Chloe the servant, made quite a splash—and that she enjoyed every moment of it.
Thank you all for your thoughtful comments yesterday. They really help me think about the issues.
When I read the diary, I was surprised that Grandma had once played a role in blackface. I was especially shocked because it brought back another very vivid memory. Let me tell you a personal story—
About ten years ago, right after I got my Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Administration, I interviewed for a faculty position at a university located in a rural area. If I had gotten the job, I would have worked closely with school districts in that area.
During the interview I was told that a nearby rural school district had recently held a school play where some of the white cast members had played the role of Blacks wearing blackface.
I was then asked, “If you worked with this district, what would you do?”
I wish Grandma was still around so that together we could grapple with complex topics and issues. . .