History Club Takes a Trip Back in Time

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Image Courtesy of Mrs. Martin

On Friday, March 6th, the OP History and Politics Club embarked upon their annual trip to learn more about history by experiencing it firsthand. Previous trips have included visits to Gettysburg, the Intrepid, the World Trade Center, and other historical sites. This year, however, club moderator Mr. McCrystal decided to try something different for the students. The club this year made the journey to South Orange, NJ to see a tragic musical about a young boy named Emmet Till.

 

Image Courtesy of TheaterMania

 

Leaving at about 10 o’clock, the journey to South Orange was quick. The play was held at the Episcopal Church of St. Andrew and Holy Communion, which sits right on South Orange Ave. near the center of town. As the students, along with Mr. McCrystal and Mrs. Martin, entered, they were kindly greeted and led to their seats right in the front row. The stage was built right on the altar in the Church and was decorated as seen in the picture below. Finally, it was time for the play to start.

Image Courtesy of Michael Finnen

The musical was incredible. It was very well put together, and immensely powerful in its message. If you have not heard of him before, Emmet Till was a young African American boy who was lynched at age 14 in 1955, after he was accused of whistling at a white woman. His death is, as described by Mr. McCrystal, “one of the darkest stains on American History.” Though he was not the only person to ever suffer this fate, his death was an eye-opener for many for the brutality of racism and segregation. Interestingly, though the play is based upon such a sad event, it also found ways to include humor at the beginning of its run, a very impressive feat that I myself certainly appreciated.

The play was very technically impressive as well, considering its scale. Only 5 actors/actresses were used throughout its entire run, meaning that many of them had to play multiple characters. Initially, it was a little bit confusing, but eventually, it was easy to follow, because each character had a specific visual identifier in their appearance so you would know who it was on stage. It also displayed the actors’ and actresses’ prowess and skill, being able to portray all of these different roles within the same play. On top of this, they could also sing and had beautiful voices. As it was a musical, much of the dialogue came through song, and the music was all very catchy and enjoyable as well. 

After the play concluded, the audience was given a once in a lifetime opportunity. An older gentleman came up, and it was revealed that this man was actually Emmet Till’s cousin! Till’s cousin, Rev. Wheeler Parker, was the last man alive who was there on the night that Emmet was killed. He spoke about the event and what truly happened and dispelled many misconceptions about the murder. It was an incredibly poignant experience to meet someone directly involved in the event that the club had just seen portrayed. He gave a powerful message about how far the world has come in combating racism, but that we still have a long way to go. He said something very meaningful: that the only time we have ever made progress is when the people of different races work together in order to combat something that they know is wrong. Truly, this is something that we can all learn from. I myself certainly appreciated that he gave his time to speak to us, and I will never forget what he said.

After this, the club had the opportunity to eat lunch in town, and then returned back to Oratory and daily life, yet although we are now back at Oratory, we will forever be changed by the message delivered in South Orange on that rainy Friday. Thank you to Mr. McCrystal, Mrs. Martin, and all of those who organized and performed in the musical. Especially, thank you to the cousin of Emmet Till, for being strong enough to overcome that moment and to teach us all about what must be done to continue moving forward.