Gem of the Ocean by August Wilson is the first chronologically in the playwright's powerful 10-play series dramatizing the African American experience in the Twentieth Century.
The play is a powerful, mystical play set in 1904 in Pennsylvania's Hill District. At a local mill, a black man is accused of stealing a bucket of nails. But rather than confess to a crime he didn't commit, he jumps in the river and becomes a martyr to his co-workers. Riots break out and the workers begin to strike. Against this turbulent backdrop, another young man named Citizen Barlow arrives at the home of Aunt Ester, a 285-year-old healer who is the keeper of tradition and history for her people. She sends Citizen on a spiritual journey aboard the slave ship Gem of the Ocean — where he must learn about his ancestors and then face the truth about himself.