Cover

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Title page, Copyright

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Contents

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p. v

List of Illustrations

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p. vii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

I have been blessed with many wonderful colleagues, mentors, students, friends, and family who have helped bring this book to fruition. It is an honor to recognize them here. First, I must acknowledge several institutions and organizations that funded this project, which began as a dissertation. I appreciated the financial assistance I received from Tufts University and the Driskell Center...

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Introduction: “Parent to Hope”

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pp. 3-20

In 1926, Theophilus Lewis, arts patron and drama critic for The Messenger, surveyed a bumper crop of independent theaters in Harlem and ardently hoped that each would become “something vital,” necessary, and meaningful to the community.1 He was not alone. As Harlem’s Theaters shows, a number of his peers fostered these same...

Part I. 1923–1928

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Chapter 1. Constructing Racial Uplift, Class, and Propaganda

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pp. 23-44

Hailed as one of the “most successful” efforts in the little theater movement by early civil rights activist and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) leader James Weldon Johnson, the Krigwa Players Little Negro Theatre (KPLNT) became a vital, pioneering community- based theater during the Harlem...

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Chapter 2. Constituting Community

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pp. 45-62

Before moving forward, I return to Du Bois’s 1926 famed treatise on the criteria for a real black theater. As theater historian Jonathan Shandell aptly notes, these “four fundamental principles” profoundly affected the Negro Little Theatre movement and became a major cornerstone in (African) American performance history.1 Originally...

Part II. 1929–1934

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Chapter 3. Staging Sacred and Secular Experiments

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pp. 65-92

“These players are the pioneers who are creating the background from which the next generation will benefit,” explained esteemed actor and guest director Rose McClendon.1 As she foretold, the Harlem Experimental Theatre (HET) launched a critical social and cultural experiment with wider ramifications than has been previously realized...

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Chapter 4. Per/(re)forming the Community

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pp. 93-110

During his tenure with the Harlem Experimental Theatre (HET), Ira De A. Reid, an actor, playwright, activist, and social scientist, was director of research for the National Urban League. Reid’s invocation of theatrical language in his essay “The Social Protest: Cue and Catharsis” (referenced above) emblematized the ways in which his life’s work reflected the convergence of theater and social change. It also...

Part III. 1935–1939

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Chapter 5. Re-visioning the Community

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pp. 113-138

In March 1937, right after its opening, Archie Seale speculated that the Harlem Negro Unit’s (HNU’s) “strictly Harlemainian” version of George Kelly’s The Show- Off (1924) playing at the Lafayette Theatre as part of the Federal Theatre Project (FTP) would surpass the highly acclaimed “Voodoo Macbeth” (1936).1 The opposite came...

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Chapter 6. Playing with History, Signs, and Fables

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pp. 139-166

In December 1938, the black press rallied in support of the Harlem Negro Unit’s (HNU’s) all- black cast in white writer George Bernard Shaw’s Androcles and the Lion as it opened at the Lafayette Theatre. Numerous press releases for the show situated the production in relation to the “Voodoo Macbeth,” one of the major...

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Epilogue

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pp. 167-172

For many of the people who were involved in the Federal Theatre Project (FTP), its impact could be summed up as a restorative moment to learn, develop, and survive.1 However, while federal subsidization of the FTP’s Harlem Negro Unit (HNU) fostered black theater and helped many unemployed artists, those results were...

Notes

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pp. 173-228

Bibliography

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pp. 229-258

Index

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pp. 259-267