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The Roots of African American Drama

An Anthology of Early Plays, 1858-1938

Edited by Leo Hamalian and James V. Hatch
Foreword by George C. Wolfe

African American Studies, Race and Ethnicity, Theater

African American Life Series

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Paperback
Published: April 1992
ISBN: 9780814321423
Pages: 456 Size: 6x9
eBOOK
Published: April 1992
ISBN: 9780814338476
Review

A testimony to the roots of African-American literature and their influences on contemporary work.

— Lou-Ann Cruther,

While many historically significant or interesting plays by white playwrights are easily found in anthologies, few by early African American writers are equally accessible. Indeed until the 1970s, almost none of these early plays could be located outside of a library.

The Roots of African American Drama fills this gap. Five of the thirteen scripts included here have never been in print, and only three others are presently available anywhere. The plays represent a variety of styles—allegory, naturalism, realism, melodrama, musical comedy, and opera. Four are full length, eight are one-acts, and one is a skit. Their subjects include slavery, share-cropping, World War I, vaudeville, religion, and legend and mythology.

In making their selections, the editors used a variety of criteria to insure each play is dramatically sound and historically important. They also searched for those scripts that were unjustly consigned to obscurity. Each selection begins with headnotes that place it in its historical and cultural context. Biographic information and a bibliography
of other plays follow each script, providing readers with added sources for study.

Leo Hamalian, a Ph.D. from Columbia University, is a professor of English at The City College of New York. He has written or edited more than one dozen volumes, including As Others See Us and In Search of Eden, and is currently editor of Ararat.

James V. Hatch is a professor of English at the City University of New York. A Ph.D. from the University of Iowa, he edited Black Theatre in the U.S.A., 1847-1974 and Black Playwrights, 1825-1977: An Annotated Bibliography.

George C. Wolfe wrote The Colored Museum, the 1986 satire of black American life, and directed Spunk, which he adapted from three tales by Zora Neale Hurston.

Contributors Include:
Abram Hill, George A. Towns, Jodie Edwards, Joseph S. Mitchell, Katherine D. Chapman Tillman, Mary Burrill, May Miller, Owen Vincent Dodson, Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins, Shirley Graham, Susie Edwards, William Wells Brown, Willis Richardson, Zora Neale Hurston

A testimony to the roots of African-American literature and their influences on contemporary work . . . Comparisons and contrasts between the traditional canon and this new collection offer parallels that would . . . make this work a fine textbook as well. [An] essential work.

– Lou-Ann Cruther,, Daily News, Bowling Green, Kentucky