American slavery tore apart families—separating wives from husbands, children from parents, siblings from siblings. After the Civil War, emancipated slaves searched for these lost loved ones by placing hopeful and often-heartbreaking newspaper ads. Villanova University’s Department of Theatre and Department of History present a dramatic reading of the ads during “Last Seen: Voices from Slavery’s Lost Families” on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019 at 8 p.m. at Villanova Theatre in Vasey Hall.
The performance, directed by Villanova Theatre Department chairperson Valerie Joyce, PhD, is a product of the “Last Seen” project, a collaboration between Villanova University’s Judith Giesberg, PhD, professor of History, and genealogists at Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. Dr. Giesberg and her collaborators—including Villanova graduate students—uncovered and digitized more than 3,000 of former slaves’ Information Wanted ads and created an online database. The project, which has been featured on numerous media outlets including the CBS Evening News and NPR, has become a critically important tool for researchers, students and individuals looking to piece together their own family history.
Dr. Giesberg and Dr. Joyce collaborated on the project to bring these individual stories to life, allowing the authentic advertisements to be center stage in the form of short monologues and scenes. The final performance will feature more than 50 Villanova students, alumni, faculty, staff and members of the local community. Dr. Joyce’s theatrical staging will feature music and movement to underscore the voices of “Last Seen.”
Following the “Last Seen” performance, participants can enjoy light refreshments and a panel discussion, featuring: