Down in Mississippi

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Artist: Carlyle Brown

Year: 2022

Date of Action: September 2022

Region: North America

Location: Fort Worth, TX

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Theatre

Confronting Bodies: Texas Wesleyan University

Description of Artwork: "Down in Mississippi" takes place in 1964 and tells the story of student activists who travel to Mississippi to register black voters. The play begins with a white character repeatedly spewing racial slurs and threats at a Black man while the latter helps register other Black citizens to vote. The university had cautioned potential audience members that they should expect to hear vulgar and offensive language.

The Incident: Texas Wesleyan's Black Student Association spoke out against the play, accusing it of being harmful to Black students and having a marginalizing effect upon them. They cited the repetition of racial slurs as disturbing and unnecessary.

Results of Incident: The play was cancelled following the protests of students. The decision was made by school officials following a public meeting with school and theater officials, the playwright, and students. Carlyle Brown, the playwright, explained that the use of the word was meant to be historically accurate and provocative. University board chairman Glenn O. Lewis reasoned that the play takes audience members out of their comfort zone in contemplating roots of racism and that censorship of Brown's play is not a valid solution.