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Discussing an UMSL play inspired by former UM Interim President Middleton’s great grandfather

Michael Middleton
Courtesy University of Missouri Columbia
Michael Middleton, former interim president of the UM system.

This weekend will be the last for a performance of “My Country: A Devised Work,” a play presented by the UMSL's Theatre and Cinema Arts department, which was inspired by Sam Beadle’s poem “My Country.”

Beadle was a former slave and the first black lawyer in Mississippi and the great grandfather of former interim University of Missouri System President Michael Middleton, who has previously reflected on the poem.

Beadle's poem reflects his love of country, diversity and the law. 

"It was patriotic but somewhat angry and disappointed at the state of affairs in Mississippi at least, and the South generally, and the country," Middleton told St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh. "The poem is about how much he loves his country but also about all the injustice and inconsistencies with the treatment of African Americans in the South at that time. He felt the need to explain the poem in a preface to a book of poems he wrote.

"He talked about 'My Country' being a fanciful flight of fancy from what is to what ought to be the scope of one's environment in a country dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. It is sort of a sarcastic poem."

While Middleton was interim president of the UM system, he provided money to each of the four campuses to adapt Beadle's poem in some way. At UMSL, Director Matthew Kerns, who is also the director of community engagement and programming for Grand Center, Inc, joined up with five students and discussed the poem and its meaning today. They ended up crafting a play telling five stories of the America they live in today in relation to the poem itself. 

Listen as Middleton and Kerns discuss the poem, the play and its meaning in today's world:

Related Event

What: “My County: A Devised Work:

When: April 28-29 at 7:30 p.m. and April 30 at 2:00 p.m.

Where: Kranzberg Arts Center

More information.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.

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