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let freedom ring (1936) Editors’ Note: This theater review byWest originally appeared in the Daily Worker , the newspaper of the Communist Party, on November 18, 1935. It was also published in 1936 as the foreword to the publication of Albert Bein’s Let Freedom Ring: A Play in Three Acts, which was based on To Make My Bread (1932). This novel by Grace Lumpkin dealt with the Gastonia, North Carolina, textile strike in 1929. Cruel, vicious, vivid reality! Sorrow and death, struggle and new hope. I sat lost in its perfect portrayal.The mountain cabin.Little pinch-bellied John and Bonnie. Old Grandpap, the mother, kinfolks and neighbors. I lived again back when I was a kid—before my people left the mountains for the textile mills. That first scene—old Grandpap, how like old Kim Mulkey my own Grandpap who so reluctantly left the mountains with the exodus of our clan to the low lands and cotton mills. How like our neighbors and kin folks—even the familiar pack-peddler! Let Freedom Ring did not bring tears to my eye.Why should I shed tears over seeing the picture of what I’ve known all my life? From that first scene back in the mountains to the magnificent and triumphant close,with the death of their leader spurring them on with greater determination to grimmer struggle, this play rings true. Anxiously,I’d waited to see Let Freedom Ring. So many things are written of the South. So seldom has the true South been pictured. I had become superskeptical of writers on the southern situation. I saw Caldwell’s Tobacco Road and it made me curse. I saw Langston Hughes’ Mulatto and regretted its onesidedness .30 But I am enthusiastic over Let Freedom Ring! I am happy that at last an artist has produced a play that bores right into the core of Southern life. With keen and discriminating understanding, with sensitive and sympathetic strokes, Albert Bein paints this picture of an awakening South, of a youthful and gigantic proletariat testing its strength, of the unity of black and white workers being wielded over prejudice and lies by a common in01 .Prose.1-blnk 96/West 12/2/03, 11:48 AM 34 selected prose 35 terest. And there is the Southern mill owner, his sheriffs and gun thugs— brutality, terror, murder—How truly they all fit in. Albert Bein takes his play from Grace Lumpkin’s novel,To Make My Bread.31 No better basis or source could have been found outside of actually living, eating,starving,struggling with the Southern workers themselves.But it takes a master to so thoroughly absorb the spirit and contents of a book and then reproduce the original scene so perfectly as Bein has done. I make no pretense to being a literary critic, but I do know the South about which Let Freedom Ring tells,and I know it’s as true as if those characters were living in Gastonia, North Carolina, instead of acting a part in the Broadhurst Theatre. If thus to picture the hopes and struggles,misery and loves,hates and fears— the whole life of a suffering, poverty-ridden people, so that they live on the stage, is great, then Let Freedom Ring is a great play. I know of no other standards by which to judge. I think it is a great play. It has a broader base than anything I’ve seen on the South. It is one of the most significant things yet to be produced about the South. No person today who is interested in the South, where the class struggle is sharpest, where misery rides heaviest and ruling class brutality is most blunt, can afford to miss seeing Let Freedom Ring. Every class-conscious worker should see it. Writers, who want to see how one artist has created a perfect picture, should see it. How I wish it could be brought to the South! How truly would the Southern workers see their own lives reflected and be stirred to greater struggles.But if it cannot be brought to the South, it can be kept alive here. It will serve to lessen the misunderstanding of the southern situation. Such a play is one of the greatest literary needs today. Albert Bein has done a splendid job. I take off my hat to him as one of the very few writers who know how to write about the South. 01.Prose...


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