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The searing story of the enslaved Bell family's fight for freedom

MH Bell Affair

Daniel and Mary Bell tried to use the courts to win freedom for their family, so history shows us more details about them than many other enslaved people in the 19th century. We know that Francis Scott Key, who wrote our national anthem, was one of the whites who lined up against freedom for enslaved people like the Bells.

A new film tells the Bells’ story; we talk to director Kwakiutl Dreher and historian William G. Thomas III. Thomas says, "We need to see this part of American history differently-- enslaved people, not as nameless and faceless, but as real people acting in history, who are clearly attempting to claim freedom from day one of the United States."

And we ask two of Mary and Daniel’s descendants about the strength they draw from this history.

The Bell Affair will premiere at Prince George's Publick Playhouse on Thursday, June 2, 2022. Find ticket information and a trailer here.

Sheilah Kast is the host of On The Record, Monday-Friday, 9:30-10:00 am.
Maureen Harvie is senior producer for On the Record. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and joined WYPR in 2014 as an intern for the newsroom. Whether coordinating live election night coverage, capturing the sounds of a roller derby scrimmage, interviewing veterans, or booking local authors, she is always on the lookout for the next story.