Art and Public Policy Professor Anna Deveare Smith’s new play published in The Atlantic

headshot of Anna Deavere Smith alongside front cover of The Atlantic

Image credit: Unique Nicole/Getty Images

“The Ghost of Slavery” by actor, playwright and APP Professor Anna Deavere Smith, is the first play published in The Atlantic magazine in almost a century. The play serves as the centerpiece of a Reconstruction-themed issue and is set in Baltimore and Annapolis in the 1860s and the present. It is an exploration of the historical persistence of trauma across generations and “makes audiences see anew the connections between past and present.” Smith’s new work draws from her own contemporary interviews with activists, social-justice workers, and young people whose lives have been affected by the carceral system, or the prison industrial complex. She supplements the interviews with primary-source historical materials, including 19th century archives and diaries. The play explores the origins of the problem in the aftermath of emancipation, by examining the contemporary failures of the juvenile justice system. According to The Atlantic, Smith intends to stage the play in the future. 

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