'Day of Tears' for hundreds of slaves to be relived on New Britain stage

Published on Wednesday, 7 February 2018 21:57
Written by LISA BACKUS


NEW BRITAIN - The heartbreak of the country’s largest slave auction, portrayed in Julius Lester’s “Day of Tears,” will come to life March 3 in a production at the Opportunities Industrialization Center, 114 North St.

The adaptation of Lester’s book by Laurie Cabral will be presented at 4 p.m. as part of an event highlighting African and African-American culture.

The OIC, which provides training and other educational opportunities for students, and the ParaDYM Plus Academy are hosting the event.

Lester’s book, through gut-wrenching dialogue, recalls “the weeping time,” when a Georgia landowner sold more than 400 of his slaves on March 2 and 3, 1852, to raise money to settle his debts, some of which he had incurred by gambling. It is considered the largest slave auction in American history.

As the auction began, the skies opened up and it rained for two days as the slaves were paraded for buyers from around the area who had seen advertisements, according to an account that ran in The Atlantic magazine in 2014.

Dozens of slave families that had worked for the Pierce family for generations were broken apart and sold in a matter of hours.

Lester’s book captures this nearly forgotten moment in American history through the words of the slaves, the slave masters, the sellers and others who were there.

Cabral, a former English teacher, decided to adapt the book for the stage by using excerpts of the book’s dialogue after teaching “Day of Tears” to her students, said OIC board member Gerri Brown-Springer, who is organizing the evening.

When Cabral discussed bringing the production to New Britain, the OIC embraced the idea, Brown-Springer said.

“Even reading the reviews of the book is very emotional,” Brown-Springer said. “I thought it would be so good to bring it to New Britain.”

While the performance starts at 4 p.m., vendors will be selling items including African clothing from 3 to 4 p.m. and 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Additionally, some of the best African-American cooks in the city have been asked to prepare food for the “Taste of Soul,” Brown-Springer said.

The soul food is included in the price of admission to “Day of Tears.”

Guests also are welcome to bring their own bottled drinks to participate in the Taste of Soul Cocktail Sip.

Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. They can be purchased online at or by calling the OIC at 860-224-7151 or Brown-Springer at 860-225-8575.

Posted in New Britain Herald, , New Britain on Wednesday, 7 February 2018 21:57. Updated: Wednesday, 7 February 2018 21:59.