POSTPONED: Original Play “Nancy” to be performed at ETSU on February 2nd



In 1820, Elihu Embree published his newspaper The Emancipator on Main Street, Jonesborough. The seven edition paper is the first publication dedicated solely to the cause of abolitionism. Embree passed away in December of 1820, and the paper died with him. Even though it was short-lived, The Emancipator had over 2,000 subscribers and its reach went all the way to Boston and Philadelphia. In spite of his abolitionist beliefs, Embree himself was an enslaver. Nancy was an enslaved woman owned by Elihu Embree, and her story will be shared in the Bach Theatre at East Tennessee State University on February 2nd in an original play entitled “Nancy.”


Written by Anne G’Fellers-Mason, Executive Director of the Heritage Alliance, “Nancy” follows a year in the woman’s life, from January 1820 when Elihu Embree wrote his will to January 1821 when his will was read before the Washington County court. In his will, Embree tried to free Nancy and her five children, but were his wishes carried out? What was Nancy feeling and thinking during this time? The play is based on primary research relying heavily on documents from the Washington County Archives. The role of Nancy will be performed by local actress Ubunibi-Afia Short. “Nancy” has received multiple awards including an Award of Excellence from the Tennessee Association of Museums and a Certificate of Excellence from the East Tennessee Historical Society.


“It is an honor to bring the show to ETSU and share it with a new audience” Mason says. “We are very excited to partner with the Black American Studies Program as well as the Department of Theatre and Dance to make this performance possible.” The performance at 7:30 pm on February 2nd will be free of charge, but donations to the participating organizations are encouraged. The show will be performed inside the Bach Theatre located in the James C. and Mary B. Martin Center for the Arts at 1320 W State of Franklin Road. Performances of this show have sold out in the past, so make sure you get to the theatre between 7:00 and 7:30 pm on February 2nd to ensure you get a seat. The show is about an hour in length followed by a question and answer session with the actress and playwright. If you have questions about this show, please contact the Heritage Alliance at 423.753.9580, or email Dr. Daryl Carter at



The Heritage Alliance is dedicated to the preservation of the architectural, historical, and cultural heritage of our region and to providing educational experiences related to history and heritage for a wide range of audiences. For more information, visit our website at or call our office at 423-753-9580. For more information about the Black American Studies Program at ETSU, visit For more information on the ETSU Department of Theatre and Dance, visit