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Black Female Playwrights

An Anthology of Plays before 1950

Edited with an Introduction by Kathy A. Perkins

Publication Year: 1990

"Fine reading and a superb resource." -- Ms.

"Highly recommended." -- Library Journal

"Perkins has chosen the plays well, and her issue-oriented introduction places the women and their works in a literary and historical context." -- Choice

"As well as being centered on the black experience, the plays in Black Female Playwrights are centered on the female experience." -- Voice Literary Supplement

"Perkins' anthology is valuable for a number of reasons... Perkins' book (which includes a bibliography of plays and pageants by black women before 1950 as well as a selected bibliography of critical works) is a major help in providing access to [the world of black drama]." -- Theatre Journal

The need to acknowledge these works was the impetus behind this volume. Perkins has selected nineteen plays from seven writers who were among the major dramatizers of the black experience during this early period. As forerunners to the activist black theater of the 1950s and 1960s, these plays represent a critical stage in the development of black drama in the United States.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Blacks in the Diaspora


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

In 1981, with the assistance of a Ford Foundation Fellowship, I began extensive research on the contributions of blacks in the non-performing areas of the American theatre-designers, directors, producers, choreographers, musical directors, technicians and other craftspeople behind the scenes. While researching the life of Shirley Graham...

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pp. 1-17

During the Civil Rights movement, Lorraine Hansberry emerged as the first black woman to present a drama on Broadway with her 1959 production of A Raisin in the Sun. Never before had a black female playwright commanded such attention in the American theatre. In Raisin, Hansberry was able to realistically address an array of issues such as the strength...

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Georgia Douglas Johnson

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pp. 19-23

One of the first black modern female poets of the twentieth century, Georgia Douglas Johnson was an inspiration and role model for the many black women writers who emerged during the 1920s. A prolific poet and playwright, Johnson gained recognition as an established writer with the publication of her collection of poems...


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pp. 24-30

A Sunday Morning in the South

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pp. 31-37

Blue Blood

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pp. 38-46

Blue-Eyed Black Boy

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pp. 47-51

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Mary P. Burrill

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pp. 53-56

The September 1919 issue of Birth Control Review, a monthly periodical advocating birth control rights of women, featured a special issue on "The Negroes' Need for Birth Control, as Seen by Themselves." In this issue Mary P. Burrill contributed her play They That Sit in Darkness, along with a short story by her close friend...


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pp. 57-66

They That Sit in Darkness

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pp. 67-74

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Zora Neale Hurston

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pp. 75-79

At an early age, Zora Neale Hurston's mother told her to "jump at de sun," and Hurston spent her life doing just that. She attended Howard University from 1919 to 1924, where she developed her talents as a writer. In 1928, she became the first black to graduate from Barnard College in New York City...

The First One

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pp. 80-88

Color Struck

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pp. 89-102

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Eulalie Spence

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pp. 103-106

Eulalie Soence was one of the more experienced female playwrights prior to the 1950s. She graduated from New York City's Wadleigh High School and the New York Training School for Teachers, then received a B.A. from New York University in 1937 and an M.A. from Teachers College, Columbia University, in 1939...


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pp. 107-118

Fool’s Errand

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pp. 119-131


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pp. 132-140

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May Miller

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pp. 141-144

May Miller (Sullivan) was presented with the 1986 Mister Brown Award for Excellence in Drama and Poetry by the National Conference of African American Theatre at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. (Mr. William Brown was manager of the African Company in New York, 1816-1823.) Presently hailed...

Stragglers in the Dust

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pp. 145-152

Riding the Goat

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pp. 153-165

Christophe’s Daughters

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pp. 166-175

Harriet Tubman

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pp. 176-185

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Marita Banner

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pp. 187-190

In 1964, playwright Adrienne Kennedy was awarded an Obie for her surrealistic play Funnyhouse of a Negro (1962). This play commanded attention primarily because Kennedy deviated from the realistic style of writing that was prevalent among black writers. She would eventually adapt this surrealistic...

The Purple Flower

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pp. 191-199

Exit: An Illusion

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pp. 200-205

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Shirley Graham

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pp. 207-210

The many contributions of Shirley Graham have on the whole been neglected in the annals of American theatre history. Graham was one of few black women, prior to the 1950s, to actively pursue a career in professional theatre as a playwright, composer, designer, and director. The fact that only one...

It’s Morning

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pp. 211-224

I Gotta Home

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pp. 225-279

Plays and Pageants by Black Women Before 1950

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pp. 281-285

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 287-288

Back cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780253113665
E-ISBN-10: 0253113660
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253206237

Page Count: 300
Illustrations: 10 b&w photos
Publication Year: 1990

Series Title: Blacks in the Diaspora