The Development of Black Playwright Essay

The Development of Black Playwright Essay

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Black theater is as old as the first tribes in Africa who would dance with wooden masks to represent gods or legends (Kerr, p3). The playwrights of this time were the Griots, who were known as the keepers of history in African tribes and mark the beginning of African literary tradition (Freeman.) But when does the development of black playwright actually take off?
The first black playwright in history is Terence Afer, who was born around 159 BC (Arnott). He was taken to Rome as a slave, and because he impressed his master, was given a liberal education and as much freedom as a slave could have. Terence managed to produce six plays in his life which were the base for modern comedy of manners (Arnott). Terence’s literary career was deciphered from the collection of his own prologues, commentary of his plays written by Aelius Donatus, and the writings of a Roman biographer named Suetonius. After Terence, the history of playwrights of color have been lost or not kept up with consistently enough to get much from. The first section of history where the development of black playwright really takes hold is between the years of 1820 and 1930, in the country of the United States. This was the century when African Americans fought for freedom and equal rights. The major figureheads who developed and moved black playwright forward were William Wells Brown, Angelina Weld Grimke, Willis Richardson, Alain Leroy Locke, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes and Lorraine Hansberry.
African Americans’ ancestors were chained, shrouded in death and pain they were dragged on long journeys across the sea from their home to work till their very last breath on fields run by colonists. With slavery being the foundation for African Americans, what circumstanc...


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...s Circle Award (A&E Networks). Later down the road the play would even be adapted into a musical and win a Tony Award (BHS).
At the age of 34 though, Lorraine Hansberry was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and would die from it (BHS). Before her death she a second play about a liberal's experience dealing with politics and activism called The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window (A&E Networks). But the reviews for the play were mixed, and the play became a bust.
After her death, Hansberry’s ex-husband, Robert Nemiroff, finished her last works and published three of her plays, Les Blancs, The Drinking Gourd, and What Use are Flowers? (BHS). Nemiroff also composed a play in Lorraine Hansberry's honor using a combination of her writings and diary entries, called To Be Young, Gifted, and Black (BHS). Although death came to her at a young age, her work and fame live on.


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