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‘Free Man of Color’ Star Discusses his NAACP-Nominated Role as John Newton Templeton

The day Kareem Ferguson discovered the story of John Newton Templeton, he knew that today’s generation needed to be informed of Templeton’s heroic efforts. As a result, Ferguson jumped at the opportunity to serve as the main lead in the three-man stage play about Templeton’s life.

Free Man of Color follows Templeton’s journey from being a former slave to speaking out against the American Colonization Society’s immoral founding of Liberia. Ferguson discusses the importance of the play and how the U.S. government played a major role in the present-day conditions of many African nations. –amir shaw

Who was John Newton Templeton?

John Newton Templeton was a slave who was granted freedom after his slave master died. He was taken to Ohio where the federal government chose him to be a part of an experiment. The U.S. government wanted to send free slaves to Africa. They wanted to educate several free men and give them an opportunity to form a colony in Liberia and Sierra Leone. A bill was passed to fund the project. They wanted Templeton and U.S. troops to push the existing Africans out so that the free slaves could set up a civil society. But when Templeton was to be shipped off to become the first governor of Liberia, he decided against the experiment. He later started a school and educated black kids. There is a building at Ohio State University named after him.

How did the experiment impact Liberia?

The American Colonization Society continued and they chose J.J. Roberts to become the first governor of Liberia. Within a year, Roberts was convicted of corruption. Some of the problems that exist in Africa today began with the American Colonization Society and how they abused African natives.

How has the play been received?

I was nominated for an NAACP Award and the producer and writer were also nominated. I would like to take the show to other areas. It’s well-written and very character-driven.

What other projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a film called called Talking With the Tax Man About Poetry with Steph Jones and Angela Simmons. Lamont Pierre is the director. It’s about young people finding their place in life when dealing with relationships. It will likely be released at the top of 2012.