The most persuasive evidence is a freedom paper for a young enslaved woman called Violet signed by one, Obadiah Marsh. John maintains that the document is fake, and that Obadiah is not, as Betsy speculates, his ancestor. The issue is complicated by their prior decision to rent the new apartment temporarily to Imani Dawes, an African American graduate student. Concerned about the potential impact on Imani of living in what may have been the slave quarters, Betsy lies. She tells Imani that a burst pipe has made the apartment uninhabitable and offers her a guest bedroom in their house instead. On the evening Imani moves in, Betsy has a moment of revelation: instead of Imani, she “sees” a young Black woman dressed in period servant’s clothes in their living room. She’s convinced it’s Violet. And she becomes consumed with finding out who Violet was and what happened to her.
Her painstaking research yields limited information about Violet herself. But it confirms that John was indeed related to Obadiah, and it leads to further troubling discoveries: about the Marsh family’s profitable engagement in the slave trade; about local resistance to confronting the community’s hidden history of slavery; and about her husband’s conviction that white people bear no responsibility for addressing slavery’s legacy. For Betsy, the experience is life-changing: it causes her to question her marriage, her priorities, and her future.
Roles by gender: 2 women, 1 man
Roles by race: 1 Black or African American, 2 white