On Dec. 7, 1907, a mob of armed men known as the Night Riders set two large tobacco warehouses on fire in nearby Hopkinsville. The flames released an eerie red glow that night, which hinted at the violence consuming southern Kentucky and northern Tennessee. For three years, the Night Riders, a group of radical tobacco farmers, had battled the monopolistic American Tobacco Company, and the nightly sounds of rifle shots showed no signs of abating.
The series of bloody skirmishes in the region came to be known as the Black Patch Tobacco Wars, and according to Dr. Rick Gregory, the fighting marked “the longest and most violent conflict between the end of the Civil War and the civil rights struggles of the mid-sixties.”
Gregory, who earned his Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University, is considered the foremost authority on this local conflict, and at 4 p.m. on Oct. 1, he will visit the Austin Peay State University Morgan University Center, room 303, to discuss the Black Patch Tobacco Wars and the musical “Smoke: A Ballad of the Night Riders.”
The play, by APSU alumnus and Julliard-trained actor David Alford, follows the fictional Hartley family as they witness the violent events taking place in this area. Dr. Minoa Uffelman, APSU associate professor of history, published a review of the play in The Tennessee Historical Quarterly, calling it “a fabulous musical rendering of the conflict of rural families fighting for their very survival, told with original compositions of bluegrass-style arrangements played and sung by some of the region’s most talented musicians.”
The play will run Oct. 2-4 and Oct. 9-11 as part of the 2014 Bell Witch Fall Festival in Adams. Gregory will discuss the play and the historical events that influenced it during his Oct. 1 visit to APSU.
For more information on his lecture, contact Uffelman at firstname.lastname@example.org.