by Samm-Art Williams
Alexis M. Skinner
The World of the play
In Crossroads, North Carolina, we are introduced to Cephus Miles, a young farmer who becomes a conscientious objector of the Vietnam War. While he is imprisoned for five years Cephus yearns for his country home and recounts the lessons of his uncle and the innocent love of his childhood sweetheart. Upon release Cephus starts his life anew, but finds that the harsh Northern city and his new woman has turned a cold shoulder to him. A letter from a stranger gives him a lifeline.
Cephus Miles – A Southern farmer with strong convictions
Woman One/Pattie Mae Wells – The girlfriend of Cephus and several other characters
Woman Two – Plays several female characters and a male character
Important TERMS & THEMES
The Promised Land – The industrial cities of the North were considered places of economic possibility for over one million African Americans during a mass movement known as the Great Migration of the early 20th century. African Americans were escaping the racism, poverty, and oppressive laws in their Southern agricultural homes in search of equality and jobs. The cities of the North became places of unlimited opportunity and meccas for the development of black arts and culture throughout the Great Depression and after World War II.
Conscientious Objector – On September 16, 1940, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Selective Service and Training Act into law, requiring that all males 21-36 register for the armed services draft. During the Vietnam War the compulsory drafts of the U.S. military sent many young men off to a foreign land to fight and die. Some men, like the boxer Muhammad Ali, refused to fight in a war that they did not believe in. In addition to being labeled treacherous and cowardly, conscientious objectors were given prison terms up to five years for refusing to serve in the military.
The Strength Not to Fight: An Oral History of Conscientious Objectors of the Vietnam War by James W. Tollefson (Little, Brown & Company, Boston, MA, 1993)
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson (Random House, New York, NY, 2010)
The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How it Changed America by Nicholas Lehmann (Vintage Books, New York, NY, 1991)
Goin’ to Chicago (1994) by George King
Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight (2013) by Stephen Frears