The Thin Light of Freedom


Watch the WCVE recording of this performance! Buy a copy of the book here.

Hear the voices of diverse characters from Northern and Southern communities as they work to make sense of the changes wrought by war, emancipation, and freedom.

ACWM CEO Christy Coleman says- "To be clear- this is no ordinary book launch lecture! This is a dramatic, staged presentation of key stories in this compelling book about what happened to a diverse group of people in the last days of the war. It’s powerful, bone-chilling, uplifting and a night to remember!"

Performers Sheila Arnold Jones, Michael Empson, Marvin-Alonzo Greer, and Stephanie Hasselbacher 

Based on Dr. Edward L. Ayers’ new book, The Thin Light of Freedom: Civil War and Emancipation in the Heart of America, this dramatic presentation presents the voices of soldiers and citizens, free and enslaved, who were affected by the Civil War and its aftermath.

Their stories focus on diverse characters from a Northern community and a Southern community, one in Pennsylvania and one in Virginia, both in the great valley that cuts across the Mason Dixon Line. Soldiers from the two counties fought in the defining battles of the Eastern Theater of the war and their homes and farms were burned in raids by invading enemy troops. Though the two communities shared common soil, climate, crops, ethnicities, political cultures, and religious faiths, one fundamental difference divided them: slavery.

African American people’s position and experience occupy center stage throughout, from enslavement to enlistment to emancipation, from being property to owning property, from being the object of politics to expressing their own political views through voting.

Co-sponsored by the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, the program was written by Abigail Schumann and Sheila Arnold Jones. Schumann is an Emmy Award-winning producer, director, and writer of educational history programs for stage and screen, and has more than 30 years of experience portraying women of the past for modern audiences. Jones is a performer who presents storytelling programs, historic character presentations, professional development for educators, and inspirational and motivation presentations for schools, churches and organizations throughout the U.S.


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