Fayetteville State University presents The Founders’ Play “150 Steps to Equality” April 19–21 at Butler Theatre at 7:30 p.m. This historical drama is part of the 2018 Founders’ Day activities and sesquicentennial celebration.
“The 150 is obviously representative of the 150 years, and I chose the title because of what one of the founders said – that establishing the State Colored Normal School was the first step in moving forward after the Civil War,” said Phoebe Hall, professor with the Performing and Fine Arts Department. “The play is about the founders and not so much the founding of the school because we have heard about the founding many times.”
Hall added that any time the history of FSU is talked about, people hear about the $136 purchase for the land and how the school came to be. “When I was tasked with writing this play, I started thinking about these founders, and it occurred to me that I did not know the first thing about each one of them,” said Hall. “That’s what (piqued) my curiosity – who were these men and how did they manage to do this thing?”
This was just after the Civil War stopped, and money was very tight. “Even though the Civil War guaranteed certain freedoms for African- Americans, they were not in place yet,” said Hall. “So how did these seven men manage to save up $136? Because in 1865 that would have been a small fortune.” Hall added that she had to research and find out what the men did for a living and their views on educating black children, which at that time was still illegal. Even though the civil rights movement said it was no longer illegal, people were still being arrested for doing it.
The first act of the play is about the founders. Each one of them has a monologue that explains where they came from, who their parents were and what they did for a living.
The second act starts out with E. E. Smith. “E. E. Smith is not one of the founders, but he is credited with saving the school from going under,” said Hall. “It covers all the land purchases he made, deeding the land over to the school and going to bat for state funding.”
The remainder of the second act is about the students at the school. It focuses on what they were like, the kinds of things they were involved in, the music and dances they were into and their membership in various clubs and organizations as well as their political involvement.
“We look forward to everyone coming out to see this play,” said Hall.
The cost is $10 for adults, $8 for staff and senior citizens and $3 for students with ID.
For more information, call 910-672-1006.
Photo: E.E. Smith