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by Samm-Art Williams

Alexis M. Skinner

The World of the play

General Overview

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.

Character Breakdown

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.

Gabardine – A durable twill-woven  fabric. A 1950s style of pants with a high waist, tapered legs and cuffs.

Rabbit Tobacco – A wild herb used in cold and cough remedies as a a tea.

Pull the Seine – A practice of fishing using a seine net which is weighted at the bottom and held up with bouys at the top. Two people stand in the water on either end of the long net and catch the fish swimming towards it. Once enough fish are trapped, the net is closed to haul the load of fish.

Resources

Further Reading:
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)

Further Watching:
Goin’ to Chicago (1994) by George King
Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight (2013) by Stephen Frears

Photos:
https://d.lib.ncsu.edu/collections/catalog?_=1522876105820&f%5Bresource_decade_facet%5D%5B%5D=1950s&q=african+american+1950s+farm

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