In the late 19th century, more than 60,000 African Americans gathered in Nashville, Tennessee to embark on a new life in the Western frontier. In an unprecedented movement that came to be known as “The Great Migration,” former slaves and free Blacks began an exodus out of the south and staked their futures on the promise of a piece of land in the free state of Kansas. One of the communities that would form as a result of this great journey was Nicodemus, Kansas.
Set in the all-black town of Nicodemus, Kansas in 1898, Flyin’ West tell the story of courageous, Black pioneers who have come west to build a new life for themselves, free from the racism and oppression of the South. Each of the characters in the play brings a different experience to the story. Miss Leah (age 73), was born into slavery and came west with the first settlers of the Great Migration. Sophie, Fannie and Minniehave been thrown together by circumstance, and have become like sisters to each other. They have homesteaded a piece of property in Kansas together.
Born into slavery, Sophie (age 36) is determined to make Nicodemus a model community, where blacks can enjoy all the benefits of a free life. Fannie (age 32 and born free), wants to be a writer. She has struck up a relationship with a local black man, Wil Parrish (age 40), who was born into slavery, lived among the Seminole Indians, and has come to Kansas by way of Mexico.
Trouble begins when Minnie (age 21 and born free) returns from Europe where she has been living with her husband, Frank (age 36 and born into slavery), a successful poet in London. Frank, the son of a white slave-owner, is waiting to hear if he will receive the inheritance his father promised him before he died. A very light-skinned Black, Frank “passes” for white, and subsequently loses all his money in a card game with white speculators. When a telegram arrives announcing that his white half-brothers have denounced him and his right to his inheritance, Frank suddenly sees the value in Minnie’s share of the homestead.