Cross-Examined: A Play

"Cross-Examined" is a 30-minute play, set in 1874, when two black mothers took to the courts to challenge school segregation in Keokuk, Iowa. Their efforts were part of a national struggle to expand the meaning of freedom after the Civil War. Although Reconstruction-era constitutional amendments and federal legislation extended political and civil rights to African Americans, northern states were slow to offer the full enjoyment of those rights to their black citizens.

“Cross-Examined” explores the experience of two Iowa mothers—Charlotta Smith, a former slave, and Mary Jane Dove, the wife of a respected minister—who were determined to end the unconstitutional exclusion of black children from Keokuk’s public schools.

The play, written by Iowa City resident Margot Connolly, is performed by four University of Iowa actors. The historian who consulted on the play, University of Iowa Professor of History and Gender Studies Leslie Schwalm, travels with the group to provide historical background and to field questions after the performance. This event is sponsored by MMU's Black Student Union and English department.

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