It was the idea of Rose Shapiro—a Jewish widow—and Dawn Jacks—an African-American teenager—to plan a trip to Selma. The two, along with Dawn’s mother (Rose’s maid), Mary Jacks, and Rose’s chauffeur and handyman, Terrance Witt, would pile into Rose’s Buick and drive from the solidly White, middle-class town of Ridgewood, New Jersey, to Alabama to join Dr. Martin Luther King’s march from the Edmund Pettus Bridge to Montgomery, the state capital. The marchers’ goal: to demand voting rights for Black citizens from Governor George Wallace himself.
Gassed up, sandwiches and drinks packed, Green Book at the ready, and hearts full of hope, the foursome heads South even as America, particularly the South, remains hostile to its Black and Jewish citizens. Excited, Dawn takes the wheel and encourages optimism, while Mary sings to cover her trepidation. Encounters with racists—a White gas station attendant and a state trooper—reveal the dangers of “traveling-while-Black-with-a-Jewish-woman-in-the-back-seat.”
Arriving in Selma, the four join hands and head into the march. Multiple tear gas bombs explode. Stench and smoke fill the stage. Sounds of police dogs attacking, billy clubs smashing heads, screams and chant-like prayers are heard. Injured, the four run for their lives. This day will live in infamy as Bloody Sunday.
The travelers—injured, bloody, dazed, disoriented—stumble back to the car and make their way back North. Those formerly united by circumstance are now united by experience. The show ends with a new, if fragile, understanding of what a family—and just maybe what a country—can be.