Black History inspires FAMU’s Emancipation Blues production

Florida A&M University's Essential Theatre and Dept. of Music collaborated and combined entertainment and awareness in the form of spoken word, dance and music in their first Emancipation Blues ensemble Tuesday evening. 

Former dean of the FAMU's School of Arts and Sciences called the ensemble “refreshing, enlightening and intellectually stimulating.”
The purpose was to send a clear message about the realities and hardships Blacks have faced throughout history.
Anedra Small, assistant professor of theatre and co-director of the program, said the inspiration behind the show was a desire to celebrate Black history in a different way than usual.

Reenactments of Africans being captured into slavery, audio of the 9-1-1 call reporting Trayvon Martin being shot, videos from the Civil Rights Movement and Black Lives Matter poetry were all incorporated into the thought provoking presentation.

“We wanted an in your face approach to revisiting history. I hope audience members left asking how, if at all, has history changed and how can I be a part of change,” Small said.

Director of jazz studies and co-director of the program, Robert Griffin, said he wanted to combine traditional and current music so audience members could appreciate the history behind it.

“The title ‘Emancipation Blues’ is a play on words describing the toils we encountered to gain freedom,” Griffin said.

He explained that music is a reflection of the times when Black musicians had to adapt to sociological differences.

“Musicians have always been involved in social change and at the forefront of political activism,” he said. “We have Charles Mangus with ‘Fables of Faubus’ in the 1950s and J. Cole with ‘Be Free’ in the 2000s.”  

Small added that the fact that old school is mixing with new school and artist are sending the message to their fans about how to be activists is important because history is resurfacing.

The production was the second program featured in the 2016 FAMU Artists in Bloom festival which celebrates art, film, music, theatre, literature, and health awareness. The festival runs through April 2. For more information or for updates please visit