Slaves gather during the “Night of Freedom,” to discuss the country’s new Amendment. Some believe lucky number 13 will quench their thirst for freedom. Others question if they’ll ever get a full glass; or remain half and half.
ACT I: “MO WATER”
SEAN: 46 years old, supports the 13th Amendment.
DANIEL: 24 years old, despises the 13th Amendment.
LORAINE: 36 years old, supports the 13th Amendment.
JORDYN: 25 years old, despises the 13th Amendment.
February 1, 2021.
[SEAN and LORAINE sit on opposite ends of a table from DANIEL and JORDYN. In the middle of the table sits a glass of water.]
What do you see?
Someone owes me.
You’ll get a taste, won’t you?
I’ve worked for more than a “taste.”
Grateful, but not satisfied.
Besides, I did all the work.
“We” did all the work.
Correct. “We,” did all the work. So why should I— Why should “We,” settle for a “taste?”
Patience. Slow and steady wins the race.
I thought it was the early bird who gets the worm?
No one recorded the duration of the bird’s travels. Nor the speed in which it did. Being early is a matter of timing.
We have been flying for over 400 years. Either our clock is broken or we some damn fools.
You ought to be ashamed of yourself for letting that ignorance slide off your tongue.
It was a huge step. The first real step in the right direction for us.
Eh. A rather small step in actuality. One that led us into a long cycle, filled with the same lies, by the same people.
Sean stands up, walks to the center of the table and sits by the glass of water.
What do you think the people of 1865 would have said after hearing you say something like that? After they fought and died for us to get this far.
Sean SLIDES the glass of water to Daniel. He STOPS it. Daniel picks up the glass, puts it to his lips, then stops. He raises the glass.
They’d probably say; “My feet hurt. Please fill my glass with the water I deserve.”
Daniel drops the glass on the floor.
ACT II: “MY FEET HURT”
GEORGE: 22 years old, optimistic leader. Has a secret relationship with Mary.
ISAAC: 33 years old, level-headed leader.
MARY: 19 years old, fair skinned house slave. Massa’s daughter through an affair with one of his house servants. She’s the only slave that lives in the house.
WILLIAM: 45 years old, smart and in a relationship with Gladys.
GLADYS: 38 years old, stern girlfriend of William.
FRED: 39 years old, realist, opposes anything the whites do for blacks and Uncle of Mary.
February 1, 1865.
[GLADYS and WILLIAM prepare for the meeting. He is struggling to put his shoe on as she braids her hair.]
This damn thing. I can’t seem to get it on.
What is a matter now William?
This boot. I can’t get it on.
What you mean you can’t get it on?
Woman, what did I just say? I can’t get it on.
Gladys walks over to help William with his boot.
How’d you manage to get that one on then?
That one was easy. I just put my foot in it.
Then put your foot in this one.
What you think I been tryna do Gladys? You think I’m over here scratching my ass?
Gladys slaps his foot. William YELLS.
You better watch your mouth William Johnson.
Be careful baby it’s swollen.
She carefully takes his foot out of the boot and examines it.
William! What in the world happened to you?
I was on punishment.
Massa daughter ain’t doing too well.
(William begins his story)
Earlier That Day
[MASSA PACES back and forth as PASTOR looks over MARY— who lays on the couch with a towel over her head.]
So he called the pastor from the church to come see her.
William, GEORGE and ISAAC enter followed by GUARD 1 and GUARD 2.
Pastor said he need a bucket of fresh water from the lake to heal her, so he sent me, George, Isaac and two guards to get some down the way.
It takes three Negros to get a bucket of water?
On our plantation, you got three kinds of Negroes. George, young and strong, but a rebel. He knows the land because he tried to escape so many times. Isaac, lazy as hell, but he can talk, know how to keep everything peaceful. Myself, I’m the brains, tell everyone how to get the job done quickly.
You the brains but can’t put your boot on.
George, Isaac and William walk ahead of Guard 1 and Guard 2 who are trailing with shotguns.
On the way to the lake, George is telling us about this meeting everyone at the plantation needs to attend tonight. Says it’s the most important news of our lifetime. Says we’ll be free soon.
He always coming up with something. Always jiving.
That’s what I figure, but I ask Isaac and he say it’s true. Say he heard the guards complaining with Massa about it.
So what? You ran home excited and hurt your foot?
No, we got back to the plantation and Massa told us come inside and get a glass of water for our hard work.
White folks act real funny when pastor come around. Make it look like they treat us well, so the good Lord will bless his child. The Lord see his evil.
While I was in there I seen my sister taking care of the sick child. She wasn’t looking too good, but pastor was right, the water made her feel better.
Mary slowly opens her eyes.
But anyways I hear Massa hollerin about the war and Lincoln, callin him a Negro lover.
William peeks in the room and sees Massa is breaking and throwing things around while cursing.
That’s how I know George tellin the truth.
Your sister didn’t say anything about your foot. Said you were jumping around just fine.
Pastor runs into the room yelling for Massa. Mary is now sitting upright in the couch. He enters and begins jumping up and down hugging pastor, the guards and even the slaves.
Because it happened after the drink. I was real tired and the pastor had water left over so I—
Oh William why would you—
It wasn’t me baby it was George! I mean hell, if it wasn’t for the three of us there wouldn’t be no water. We did all the work. So, since everybody was in a good spirit, George goes to the black guard and says:
Hey brother, Will’s feet hurt real bad. You think you can fill our glass with more water? I think we deserve it for all the hard work.
Oh your feet hurt?
[George, Isaac and William PAINFULLY stand one-footed on metal buckets as Guard 1 and Guard 2 laugh and drink water.]
He took us outside and made us stand on one foot until sundown.
Gladys sits adjusting William’s boot. He is sitting on the bed rubbing his foot.
Well it’s over with now. We need to get this boot on your foot before we’re late. If what George is saying is true we can finally get married.
Married? I’m not becoming no free man just so I can get locked into marr—
Gladys forces William’s foot into the boot. William YELLS.
Wow, look at that. It fits perfectly. I hope my ring does too.
ACT III: “MO WATER”
Later That Night
[Isaac, SLIM, UNC, WILMA, JAMES, BOBBY and GREEDY sit around the campfire listening to George talk.]
Brothers, sisters, family. I’ve called this assembly for a very special cause. Today, the first of February, 1865. You, me, all of us… are no longer slaves.
Everyone begins to chatter.
I know what you are thinking, but it is true. President Lincoln that I’ve been telling you all about has delivered a law that will make us all free.
So you tellin me I aint gots to be no field nigga no mo?
Sit down Slim! George don’t know no mo than me or you. He jivin again, that’s all he good for.
I ain’t tellin no lie you all. I promise. I heard it with my own two ears. Lincoln’s people won the war and the law was passed today. They call it the 13th Amendment.
Now you look here boy. I gots a good thing goin with Massa, ya hear me? Been workin in the house goin on two years now. I aint heard nothin bout no freedom law. Don’t get these folks killed.
William and Gladys enter.
Will was there! Will tell em what we heard today in Massa house. Tell em I aint jiving. Isaac’ll tell you. Tell em Isaac.
I was there. He aint lyin.
We heard Massa talkin to the guards today.
Aint yall the three negroes I seen on punishment today? Right outside the yard. Yeah, yall was yellin, “I’m sorry Massa, please let me go.”
George CHARGES Bobby, but is HELD BACK by Isaac. Mary enters.
Stop it! Please! He’s telling the truth.
George runs over to hug Mary. As people start to CHATTER.
Thank you for coming. Take your time.
There is a new law that has passed the Senate and Congress as of yesterday. It is called the 13th Amendment and it will end slavery. But the war is still going on and the law still needs to be approved.
What this law say gone happen to us when we free? And for how long?
You can go wherever you please. The law says neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime shall exist within the United States.
People chatter in confusion.
What she means is if they catch you they not gone bring you back to work for them. You don’t need papers to show you’re free. All you have to do is not break any rules and stay off punishment and you will be free, forever.
People ERUPT in joy.
People. Do you know what this means for folks like us? It means no more cotton fields. We can have real jobs No more whippings or Massa. We can be treated like human beings. Like equals. We can go find our kin Massa traded.
What if we can’t find em? I ain’t seen my babies in years. Ion reckon I know what they looks like now.
They got ads in the paper. Look.
Isaac hands the paper to Jamela.
And if we don’t find them, we can adopt each other as kin. We already like a family. And our names, we aint gotta have Massa name no more.
I’m fixin to change my name to Freeman cause I’m a free man!
Or Washington! Like the President, hell maybe one day I’ll be President! The first Negro President. Mr. Washington! Yeah, I likes that!
We can move, start families and even get married now. Listen everyone, this is the first step to us becoming equal in this country!
People ERUPT in excitement. FRED ENTERS LAUGHING DRUNKENLY.
Equal? Equal? I aint equal til I can do what the white man can. Yall the dumbest niggas I done ever seen.
But the fair skinned girl said it was true. She live in the house her whole life. It gots to be true.
She don’t know a damn thing. Just because her skin bright don’t mean she is. The white man is the devil and the devil don’t care bout nobody. Especially not no niggas. Do you know how much money they making because of us? Oh so you all must think they gone get in the fields and work from sun up to sun down like we do? Pick cotton til they tender white hands bleed. Rape they women like they do ours.
Fred turns to Mary.
Oops, I’m sorry. You must have thought Massa let you live in the house all these years cause he likes ya, cause ya works hard. You his own seed and he still made you a slave. Killed my sister for nothing!
You better get up outta here you ol drunk.
A drunk man never lies. I’ll leave, but let me say this before I go. There will always be slaves. All they gone do is change the title and the rules. They gone lie on ya, make you look like the bad guy and then say you’re a threat to regular folks and put you right back in them shackles, dirty clothes and hard labor and you won’t be getting a penny. But don’t mind me… I’m just a crazy ol drunk.
Fred exits. The sounds of crickets fill the woods as everyone remains quiet from Fred's words. Hopelessness paints the faces of many in the crowd. Isaac feels the shift in energy and grabs an empty glass.
What do you see in this glass?
Nothing. Looks like someone owes you some water.
Exactly. This glass shows what we have now. Nothing.
Isaac pours water into the glass.
This is what we have with this new law. Not much, but it’s something, a start. We must look at what we have instead of what we do not! So, everyone come get a taste of our future!
Everyone REJOICES, then lines up to receive their water. GREEDY approaches George who is handing out the water.
Hey brotha I traveled a long way for this meeting and my feet kinda tired ya know. You think I can get a lil more water for the road?