“…where Liberty is, there is my Country.” ~John Laurens
Once we had the passion to tell John’s story, the first step was to write, then cast, then produce the play. Which we did. The play became largely a journey of father and son as well as John fighting against slavery in America while he fought with General George Washington up and down the colonies. John’s father, Henry Laurens was a slaveholder and established leader in South Carolina, so father and son argued continually about the evils of slavery an how to end it before the end of the war. Henry became the president of the Congress assembled and then was instrumental in saving George Washington from being destroyed by his enemies in congress.
John was able to get the congress to pass a bill granting him 3,000 black soldiers to fight for their liberty with the American army. He was now a Lt. Colonel John Laurens. He designed uniforms for his regiment and had made many plans about how they would be trained. However, his black regiment was contingent on the South Carolina legislature. John led three votes in that governing body and each time more men voted for it, but it did not pass.
Meanwhile, Henry Laurens had gone to Netherlands to ask the Dutch for more funds to support the patriot army. But on the way his ship was captured by the British – Henry threw a secret leather pouch designated for the leaders of the Netherlands into the sea, but British sailors captured it too. Henry was taken to the Tower of London and held for high treason. He was held for over a year, during which time the young woman bringing him food became a spy For the American cause.
John was sent by George Washington to Paris to ask the French king for help in America. After receiving money, supplies and a promise of the navy, John returned in time to fight the battle of Yorktown. He then went to South Carolina to rout out the British once and for all.
John was still fighting against slavery when he was suddenly killed in ambush by the British only four months before he war was finally ended in 1782. He was 27 years old.
The play ran at the Threshold Repertory Theatre in downtown, Charleston during the month of October 2015. The response was so positive we decided to apply for a major grant from the SC Humanites Council to create a docudrama on the John Laurens story…
To be continued…