Hidden History: The Milly Project

Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– A group of local actors is bringing Milly Sawyer’s story to life.

“What really made me love theatre is what theatre can do,” said Ensemble Actor Jon Herbert.

Milly Sawyers was a once enslaved Springfield woman who gained her freedom in 1836. However, according to Greene County court records, Sawyers’ was viciously beaten shortly after.

“Normally, when people ask me to do this kind of thing I think oh my gosh I’m too busy, I have too much going on but, I had to say yes, this is just too important,” said Herbert.

Recently re-discovered court documents are bringing to light what some call might call a forgotten piece of local history.

Director of The Milly Project, Kendra Chappell, says telling these hidden stories could help us move forward as a community.

“I think it’s very crucial, because we do become the stories that we tell,” said Chappell. “Here’s this enslaved woman who sees herself as a freedwoman and she really has the tenacity to really go for that.”

Both Chappell and Herbert agree healing first begins with courage.

“Really for our nation, we’ve never really healed from the past,” said Herbert. “And, we’ve got a pretty sorted past.”

He says as uncomfortable as these conversations might be, they are necessary.

“Telling the story of the marginalized is the most important thing that we can do, especially if that story is part of my story,” said Herbert.

Herbert says progress doesn’t stop with Milly’s story.

“There’s a long history of important stories being swept under the rug,” said Herbert. “Stories are important because they influence policy, they influence our biases about people.”

He says he hopes the stories spark a continued desire for change.

Click here for more information on the project.

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