Ester is an older African American woman who is sitting by a tall tree. She looks at the tree reflecting on life. She touches the tree as if the life of someone she loved was growing within its roots, and this is true. She begins to tell her story of the reason that this tree is so important. It is the last “Hanging Tree” in the Texas city of Mansfield. It is the tree that many years ago her son Toby was hung from one of the branches. In a time in American history when African American people were fighting for their freedom to live as any free men and women, many people of all ages took to the streets to march in protest. Against Ester’s better judgment Toby participates in a march and ends up hanging fruit from a tree that is now standing in the middle of the downtown square, on display as a symbol of the past for many in the city. But for Ester it is a place where she can connect with her son who was taken from her long before his time. Ester’s reality of the situation is a sobering vision of a mother’s grief and how it is possible to experience the greats loss of your life and still move forward.
DI/ Female- The Hanging Tree
- (Scene opens with Ester, an older woman standing under a tree. She is humming an old hymnal like “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired.” The tree is massive next to her. She stands and looks up at the leaves and branches. She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath as if a spirit is talking to her. The actress may choose to transition between Ester as an older woman in the present and her during the Civil Rights Movement.) People often ask me, “Ester, why do you still live in Mansfield, TX after the hell you went through in that town?” (Laughs) And I would always say to them, “No matter how horrific my life has been in this city, Toby is right here. In this tree.” (Beat) I want to hate this tree. I want to hate the roots and the leaves, the branches that crack and fall on the ground that didn’t break that night, and Lord knows I wish they would have. But here I stand, fifty- eight years later on the anniversary of my son’s death and this tree (Beat) this damn tree is still standing. (Laughs) As a matter of fact there is a podium here. It reads, “This is the last standing Hanging Tree in Mansfield, TX. We honor the history of our city and pray over the lives of every African American that was hung here.” I hate this damn tree.