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Reviewed by:
  • Four Days of Fury: Atlanta 1906 by Addae Moon
  • Elizabeth A. Osborne
FOUR DAYS OF FURY: ATLANTA 1906. By Addae Moon. Directed by Catherine Hughes. Atlanta History Center, Atlanta. 20, 22 September 2013.

On the evening of 22 September 1906, simmering racial tensions exploded in Atlanta. The riot raged for four days, leaving more than a dozen African Americans and one white man dead, hundreds injured, and a city changed forever. Although newspapers widely reported the race riots, Atlanta politicians minimized the event, instead painting the city as the center of a progressive, integrated “New South.” As such, the riot was effectively purged from Atlanta’s history until recently. Addae Moon’s intriguing history-based play Four Days of Fury: Atlanta 1906 resists this erasure and brings this intentionally forgotten history to life.

Four Days of Fury, described in the program as a “participatory promenade gallery performance,” was a “History Matters” production presented as part of the Atlanta History Center’s (AHC) “Meet the Past” initiative. AHC personnel met audience members in the museum lobby, distributed what appeared to be blank lanyards, and pointed out relevant historical items in the collection: minstrelsy masks; assorted contemporaneous barber tools; and a copy of Thomas Dixon Jr.’s novel The Clansman (1905), inspiration for D. W. Griffith’s groundbreaking film The Birth of a Nation (1915). Surrounded by historical ephemera in the small liminal space outside the theatre, J. Max Barber (Masud Olufani), [End Page 441]

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Mary Saville and Brian Harrison in Four Days of Fury: Atlanta 1906.

(Courtesy of the Atlanta History Center.)

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Brian Harrison, Dujuan J. Paxton, and Masud Olufani in Four Days of Fury: Atlanta 1906.

(Courtesy of the Atlanta History Center.)

[End Page 442]

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Masud Olufani speaking to the audience in Four Days of Fury: Atlanta 1906.

(Courtesy of the Atlanta History Center.)

editor of The Voice of the Negro newspaper, introduced the primary thesis of the performance: that the Atlanta race riot was erased from history because it failed to project the desired image, and that excised histories must be actively rewritten. The play set out to reassemble these forgotten “shards of memory” by inviting the audience on a metaphorical streetcar ride through eight different “memory stations,” each of which delved into the catalysts and repercussions of the riot.

Designed for intimate interaction between actors and audience, each participatory performance included five actors and a maximum of thirty participants. As the journey began, Barber asked audience members to reverse the cards in their lanyards, thus revealing whether they were racially designated as “black” or “white” for the duration of the performance. At both performances I witnessed, the audience itself was evenly represented racially, and the lanyards mixed the audience. As a white woman who saw the production twice, I was fortunate to experience it from both perspectives.

In 1906, Jim Crow was rigidly imposed in Atlanta, and the production rigorously enforced segregation based on the lanyard-designated races. The first memory station, featuring a rehearsal of Dixon’s The Clansman in Atlanta’s Grand Theater, included three benches for audience seating: two for whites only, and a roped-off area for blacks only. Before the scene began, Barber divided the audience by (lanyard-designated) race and herded us into the correct seating area. Similar arrangements occurred in the other memory stations, with the notable exceptions of the juke joint on Decatur Street in the fourth station and the ghostly witnessing of the riot in the seventh. Sara Culpepper’s simple scenic design, consisting primarily of a few representative pieces of furniture and painted flats at each station, focused attention on the actors, each of whom played multiple roles that crossed boundaries of race and gender. One element of Marie Estes’s effective costume design was particularly vital: the donning of black or white gloves, each designating the characters’ race.

As became clear during the post-show discussion, Four Days of Fury was intended to be a provocative, firsthand experience of history; even more, it required the audience to participate directly in the events surrounding the...


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pp. 441-444
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