The piano which is the featured object in The Piano Lesson by August Wilson is full of family history and represents a lot of family suffering for both the original owners and for Berniece's family.
The Sutters were a white slave-owning family who owned the Charles family, black slaves who worked on the Sutter farm. Sutter did not have enough cash to purchase the piano as a gift for his wife, so he sold two members of the Charles family to pay for the instrument. One of those was Mama Berniece Charles, and her husband memorialized the two members of his family who had been sold by carving their likenesses (with permission) into the wood of the piano.
The Sutters kept the piano after his slaves were emancipated, but a member of the Charles family stole the piano in 1911, claiming that stealing it was symbolic of his family's freedom. This act, he believed, would free the Charleses forever. The piano has remained in the Charles family ever since, and Berniece took it with her when she moved,...
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