The people who packed the University of Maryland’s Kay Theatre grew silent as an 121 year-old freed slave named Sarah Gudgrer was brought to life. “She was beaten so many times until she didn’t want any children herself,” Dorothy Bailey, a former Prince George’s County Council member who played Gudgrer, told the AFRO. “I was carrying the message that is never ending of survival, of hope.”

A scene from the stage play “Voices in the Dark,” brings the unfortunate experience of slavery back to life.  (Photo by Hamil Harris)

A scene from the stage play “Voices in the Dark,” brings the unfortunate experience of slavery back to life. (Photo by Hamil Harris)

Long after they had been freed President Franklin Roosevelt wanted to make sure that slaves got to tell their stories. These stories were told again through a Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission production called “Voices in the Dark.” UMD featured the play on Feb. 3 as part of its celebration of Black history. Both shows were packed.

“When I heard about these stories I just felt like they should be told,” Darrell Godfry, a graphic artist at the commission who was the writer and director of the production, told the AFRO.

The 50 cast members were a diverse group who were mostly Commission employees, but there were talented exceptions like actress Lucile Obryant, who played a slave named Sarah Frances Graves. Godfry told the journey of the slaves from the middle passage from Africa to the end of Civil War where slaves fought on both sides of a war whose racial scars are evident today.

“This production tells the stories that needed to be told,” Betty Hewlett, chair of the Maryland Park and Planning Commission told the AFRO. “These were the stories of 2,300 slaves known as the slave narratives; you feel what they felt.”