“The Parchman Hour” Play Presented at the Freedom Riders 50th Anniversary Reunion in Jackson, Mississippi in May 2011

The Parchman Hour bus at CDS at midnight Tuesday May 25th. Writer/Director Mike Wiley and Company Manager Janet Perez discuss logistics for the 12-hour trip to Jackson Mississippi.

The Parchman Hour brings to the stage powerful oral histories and conversations from the Freedom Rides’ most iconic protagonists and antagonists alike.

Based on interviews, newspaper accounts, documentary imagery, and other primary sources, The Parchman Hour is the outgrowth of a yearlong residency by actor and playwright Mike Wiley, a visiting professor at the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) at Duke University in 2010. Wiley, whose plays include Dar He: The Story of Emmett Till; Tired Souls: The Montgomery Bus Boycott; and Brown v. Board of Education: Over Fifty Years Later, worked with students at Duke and at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill to research, write, and produce The Parchman Hour, deemed “world-class work” by the Independent Weekly when it debuted in December at UNC.

To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Freedom Rides, the Center for Documentary Studies, in partnership with Mike Wiley Productions and the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church, took The Parchman Hour on a tour of Mississippi over Spring Break (March 6–11). The play is now returning to Mississippi to be presented at the Freedom Riders 50th Anniversary Reunion.


May 25: Jackson State University | Jackson

“This week The Parchman Hour play is in Jackson, Mississippi again, and the perfomers are appearing for the grand finale of the Freedom Rider reunion.  This event is a culmination of months of research, writing, and rehearsal.

Lehman Brady Professor Mike Wiley taught the course, “Documentary Performance,” during the calendar year 2010 at Duke and UNC. The class researched the story of the Freedom Rides of 1961, interviewing participants, searching archives, talking with writers and civil rights leaders and compiling the raw materials for a play that Mike later wrote. The play that emerged, The Parchman Hour, premiered at UNC’s Paul Green Theater in December 2010.  The name comes from the Parchman Prison in Mississippi, where many freedom riders were incarcerated in 1961.

In March 2011, Mike Wiley and the cast were invited by Bishop Hope Morgan Ward and the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church to tour and present the play throughout the state.

Following this successful tour, which received rave reviews the play was invited back to perform before a large audience, serving as the grand finale for the Freedom Riders 50th Anniversary Reunion in Jackson, Mississippi.

The cast, most of whom are students and budding actors, all committed to returning because of the historic nature of the event. The cast and crew boarded the bus in Durham at midnight on Tuesday May 25th and are returning Friday May 27th. Read updates about the Freedom Rider’s Reunion production in our next post.”

—Chris Fowler, who was Teaching Assistant for Mike Wiley’s Lehman Brady courses  and whose photographs accompany this post, and Charlie Thompson, Curriculum and Education Director at the Center for Documentary Studies


More information about The Parchman Hour

Be Sociable, Share!

    One Response to ““The Parchman Hour” Play Presented at the Freedom Riders 50th Anniversary Reunion in Jackson, Mississippi in May 2011”

    1. […] recent works include a one-man play based on Tim Tyson’s memoir Blood Done Sign My Name and The Parchman Hour, an ensemble production celebrating the bravery and determination of the Freedom Riders who risked […]

    Leave a Reply