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 told on Saturday, June 19th in an original play entitled “Nancy” at the Embree House Historic Farm in Telford.
Written by Anne G’Fellers-Mason, Executive Director of the Heritage Alliance, “Nancy” will follow 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. “I’ve wanted to tell Nancy’s story for a long time,” says Mason, “and it’s an honor to have such an amazing actress to help tell it. I believe Nancy’s story shows just how complicated the system of enslavement was in the United States and how unjust it was. We know Embree’s story so well. It’s past time we know Nancy’s.”
Three performances will be held on June 19th with showings at 1:00 pm, 3:30 pm, and 6:30 pm. The show will take place at the historic Embree House in Telford and will last about an hour. A Q&A session and a chance to tour parts of the Embree House will follow each performance. Tickets are $12.00 and proceeds from ticket sales will help fund the educational programs of the Heritage Alliance. You can purchase tickets through Jonesborough’s online system at jonesborough.com/tickets or by calling the Visitor’s Center at 423-753-1010. Seating is limited, so make sure you purchase your tickets in advance.
June 19th is recognized as Juneteenth, or Emancipation Day, a celebration of the day that word of emancipation finally reached a group of enslaved people in Galveston, Texas in June of 1865. The Heritage Alliance hopes you will join us as a part of your celebration that day as we remember Nancy and tell her story.