What happens when you combine the Columns Museum, the American Readers Theater, Professor Sarah Smith Ducksworth, Ed.D. (an African- American Scholar), the letters of Milton W. Bailey from the Korean War to his family who lived on High Street in Milford, a wine and cheese reception, and a pot roast dinner?
You have a stunning dramatization of this youngAfrican American soldier’s deep family love and a candid look at the unfulfilled hopes and dreams of many African Americans who came of age during this period.
A joint presentation of the Pike County Historical Society and the American Readers Theater, was held on February 23 at the Columns Museum as part of the Museum’s presentation for Black History month.
The Davis/Bailey family traces its roots back to the antebellum world. Sarah Davis, the family matriarch purchased a piece of the American dream with Civil War pension money and settled on High Street at the turn of the century.The family’s last survivor, Beatrice Baileywho lived on for several decades after her son Milton died in the Korean War, maintained the family history in an album documenting the love, struggle, and determination of this family within a timeframe of over 100 years.
This album tells the story of one family’s attempt to assimilate in Middle America and is historically representative of many African American families who made similar strides through persistence and dedication to a goal. The Davis/Bailey family album is now a permanent exhibit at the Columns and was on display at theFebruary 23 event.
Dr. Sarah Smith Ducksworth, a professor at Kean College in New Jersey is currently writing a book about the Davis/Bailey family as a microcosm for the important untold story of post-Civil War African American families. She has researched the family and studied and analyzed the album. Dr. Ducksworth gave an introduction to the performance at the Columns.
Martin Moli, a professional actor with The American Readers Theater performed a dramatic reading of Sergeant First Class Milton Bailey’s letters. The American Readers Theater (ART) is anot-for-profit organization of professional actors who promote literacy through the art of dramatic reading. This is its third season in Pike County. Indeed, it is the first andonly arts organization in Pike County to have been honored with a grant from The National Endowment for the Arts.
Jeffrey Stocker, the founder and director of ART was very moved when he showed the letters of Milton Bailey to Martin Moli. Stocker said thatMr. Moli started reading the letters to rehearse and felt a great affinity for the piece. Moli, an African American having grown up in a small town similar to Milton Bailey, said it brought up a great awareness in him of what an African American was going through at that time being away from home.
The Letters Home evening events will begin at 6:30 at the Columns Museum on Broad Street. There will be a wine and cheese reception and a short historicalPower Point introduction by Dr. Sarah Smith Ducksworth. The ART dramatic readingwill begin at 7 pm . A pot roast dinner willbe elegantly served at about 7:45.Members of the Board of Directors of the Pike County Historical Society will be at each table. It will be an interesting, educational, and moving evening.
Tickets for this fundraiser are $40 per person. Reservations are absolutely necessary and must be made in advance by calling Lori Strelecki, Museum Director,at the Columns: 570.296.8126..