“Last Seen: Voices from Slavery’s Lost Families” will bring to life a compilation of classified ads printed in newspapers in the decades following the Emancipation Proclamation.
By Paula Rogo, Essence
The newspaper advertisements placed by former slaves that were searching for missing relatives will come to life when they are read onstage in a new theatrical performance set to debut at Philadelphia’s Villanova University.
“Last Seen: Voices from Slavery’s Lost Families” will bring to life a compilation of classified ads, letters, and articles printed in newspapers in the decades following the 1863 signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
According to Philly.com, the type of letters range from mothers searching for their children, husbands for their wives, daughters, and sons for their parents, siblings for each other.
“I am very anxious to get in direct correspondence with them,” Ann Whaley, 101, writes in the Baltimore Sun as she is in search for family members before she dies. “Anything you can do for me, an ex-slave, will be highly appreciated.”
Her letter was published in 1911, 40 years after Emancipation.
The performance is the result of a much bigger project, “Last Seen: Finding Family After Slavery,” an online database created in 2017 that has since become a repository for nearly 4,000 ads from hundreds of newspapers.
“Last Seen: Voices from Slavery’s Lost Families” will take place this upcoming Monday at Villanova University’s Vasey Theater in Philadelphia.
This article originally appeared in Essence.