Josiah is the bridge between Jean’s old life and her future. As a teenager, he was an unplanned pregnancy. His birth gave her hope and something to live for. Through him she discovered a sense of belonging and reason to live. In actuality, he saved her life. In the present, Josiah’s involvement in the Vietnam War represents Jean’s own conflict with an America her father sought to create and the America still filled with inequality.
Growing up living separate but equal amid the slow disintegration of slave mentality, Jean’s life was filled with freedom marches, protests, political propaganda and hope. Much like many Americans she was rocked by the violence that accompanied the Civil Rights movement, but encouraged by the coming together of Americans of all races, working toward a better America. With the bus boycotts, the sit-ins, the marches and the eventual passage of both the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act, there was a sense that finally blacks and whites would be on equal footing. Amid this upward trajectory was the affair, and Jean, ever suspicious, began to doubt the sincerity of those whites who said that they were for the uplifting of the Negro and civil rights. She second-guessed the intentions of those whose lives didn’t include the atrocities perpetrated against her people and wondered openly if theirs was a different agenda.
Her observation of the advancement of blacks didn’t include high paying jobs that moved blacks out of the ghetto. Instead, she saw black women go from being mammies to maids; the only thing changing was the absence of shackles. Black men still faced inequality in employment, being shut out of union jobs and contracts and having to settle for low wage service oriented positions. We might have no longer been on the plantation but, in her eyes, we were still viewed as nothing more than slave labor. For her, the war was an opportunity for the government to recruit vast numbers of young black men, most whom were lacking the technical skills and higher education to avoid Infantry duty and fighting on the front line. For her, black men, along with those in the lower class, were nothing more than disposable, reinforcing in her a sense that black men and boys were of little to no value to American society. The hopes and dreams of men like her father and other Civil Rights leaders died in her, and she found in this awakening a kinship with more radical black empowerment. In her world black separatism was safer and surer than integration and relying on the white political elite. Each day that passes where Josiah’s in Vietnam is another day of distrust and growing resentment of this racial and political dialectic. With Bernice’s arrival after many years of separation, Jean is forced to reconcile the teachings of her past with her lived reality of the present.
The stained glass represents Josiah. He is the third character in the screenplay, though he is never seen. The breaking of the glass represents his death, but more importantly as the glass is a link to Jean’s past, the glass’s destruction symbolizes Jean’s eventual move into the future, which most immediately is accomplished by accepting her sister Bernice. Change is gradual and slow to come, but as seen in the first two acts of the play “Deceit of Truth: A Chronicle in Three Parts”, the third part on which Stain is based, the promise made by Jean and Bernice to allow the girls to play together is realized and, while the two never know they are related, Danielle, Jean’s daughter, and Bernadette, Bernice’s, share a sisterly bond that evolves over many years into adulthood. With that, one family stain has been erased.