About Blood at the Root

This striking ensemble drama is based on the real case of the Jena Six--six Black students who were charged with attempted murder for a school fight after being provoked with nooses hanging from a tree on campus. Playwright Dominique Morisseau (Confederates, Sunset Baby, Detroit '67, Skeleton Crew) examines the miscarriage of justice, racial double standards, and the crises in relations among classes that can shatter the state of Black family life.

Blood at the Root is for mature audiences. It revolves around issues of racial violence, racial/ethnic cleansing, cultural erasure, social justice, and advocacy.

From the Dramaturg

“Across the nation, it is not lynching nooses, but pens in the hands of district attorneys like Reed Walters, that end the lives of young black men by the hundreds of thousands. The nooses hanging from the tree at Jena High School were clumsy and childish next to Reed Walter’s threat. The D.A.’s pen has replaced the lynching noose… We live in a country with more than two million prisoners. Where young black men are seven times more likely than white to be incarcerated. We all live in Jena and despite our denials, some of Jena lives in us.”

--Mumia Abu Jamal from the Jena Six Documentary 


Six teenage students--Mychal Bell (16), Bryant Purvis (17), Jesse Ray Beard (14), Carwin Jones (18), Theo Shaw (17), and Robert Bailey (17)--were arrested for the assault of Justin Barker in Jena, Lousiana. These were the Jena Six. Blood at the Root by Dominique Morriseau retells the story of not just these boys but also of a community coming together to fight for their rights. The most important thing I came across researching for this show is seeing how the systems we currently have in place affect us as individuals and us as a whole: the school-to-prison pipeline, the appropriation of black culture in the mainstream media, young black men being imprisoned for petty crimes, and the countless black lives that have been and will continue to be taken away by the police. These systems are deeply engraved in our society. Seeing young boys being sentenced and tried as adults, seeing nooses being hung on trees, or seeing how racism is woven into society (in or out of this play) sparked strong emotions in me and in our team. When working on Blood at the Root, the most important thing for us was to remember the frustration of these injustices and to remember that they’re not random--they all have roots. 

Throughout this show, there’s music pulled directly from Lousiana Bounce. Here is an article that explains the history of Bouce. Learning about bounce was essential to our cast. It helped us connect to the culture in Louisiana through a different lens.

--Shell Le, '26