With The Whipping Man in its last week on the Arkansas Repertory Theatre stage, we have short series called “Whipping Man Wednesday” every Wednesday throughout its run.
In closing, we are taking a look at the historical background of the show to better understand this thought-provoking story! For our study guide (available here!), Dramaturg Robert Neblett took a look at the context of the show and we thought it would be fitting to share it for our last post of the series.
The Whipping Man takes place in mid-April, 1865. This is a time of great potential and
even greater tension. The American Civil War has come to an abrupt end with the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee to Union military leader Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865. On April 14 of that same year, President Lincoln is assassinated. While the War is over and Southern slaves have been legally emancipated, a long period known as the Reconstruction is about to begin in the United States, which will seek to unify the citizens and borders of a broken country. Prejudices, anger, and abuse remain, and corruption abounds during the period between 1863 and 1877.
Jewish Southerners and Jewish Slaves
Historically, Jews accounted for only 1.25 percent of all slaveowners in the American South in the period leading up to the Civil War. Jewish Southerners seemed to possess many of the same attitudes toward slave ownership as their Gentile neighbors, but because the Jewish landowners did not possess the wealth of their Christian fellows, they were less likely to own and operate plantation estates, as the DeLeon family in The Whipping Man demonstrates.
The Civil War and Reconstruction in Arkansas
In the years leading up to the beginning of the American Civil War, the state of Arkansas
was resistant to the idea of secession, until April 1861 when President Lincoln called upon
the Unionist-allied state to supply military aid against Confederate troops in South Carolina. The state’s response was clear and secede from the Union in May 1861 with a 69-1
In 1863, Union forces attacked several garrisons throughout the state, including the defenders of Arkansas Post, where almost 5,000 Confederate soldiers were taken prisoner as a result of their loss. Throughout the rest of the year, Union troops pushed the Confederate presence farther and farther south in the state, and in September 1863, Little Rock fell to Union control. In March 1864, Union forces suffered a defeat during the Red River Expedition and were forced back to Little Rock. By the end of the War, more than 10,000 Arkansans lost their lives, regardless of color or political affiliation.
Pulled from The Whipping Man study guide, prepared by Robert Neblett.
Get your tickets now for this thought-provoking drama, running through Sunday, Feb. 8. Purchase yours online or by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405. Also check out the full lineup of engagement events for the show here. We hope to see you here!