The Lab has commissioned acclaimed African-American playwright Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm to write The 272, a play that explores the legacy of Georgetown University’s history around the sale of 272 slaves in 1838 in order to keep the college in operation.
The play centers on Jordan, a young, gifted freshman entering GU from Maringouin, Louisiana who is a descendant of one of the 272 slaves sold by the Jesuit Order. Fueled by research and oral history, the play dramatizes Jordan’s journey of discovery, exploring the temporal nature of forgiveness and our present-day connection to a painful and complicated past.
Playwright Tearrane Arvelle Chisholm, The Lab’s Derek Goldman and Cynthia Schneider, and Campus Cohort Professor Maurice Jackson traveled down to Louisiana to visit with the descendants and conduct research for the play. Among the many remarkable descendants with whom we met were Jessica “Millie” Tilson who devotes significant time each week to tending the graves of descendants in rural Maringouin, LA, and has become a caretaker of their memory and a champion of their legacy.
The 272 is currently in development through an interdisciplinary process encompassing ethnography and oral history – including conversations with descendants in Louisiana and elsewhere – social history and critical race studies, and interactions with campus leaders, faculty, scholars, and students (including GU’s Working Group on Slavery, Memory and Reconciliation).
The play is continuing its intensive development through residencies and research.