Black Playwrights of the Civil Rights Era (LIT2343.01)

Maya Cantu

In 1959, the resounding success of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun transformed the “Great White Way,” kicking open Broadway’s doors to the generations of African American playwrights that followed. Yet, as Hansberry herself acknowledged, she was only part of a larger wave of Black playwrights who, responding to the progress and protests of the Civil Rights Movement, created vital American drama. Hansberry reflected on Raisin’s resonance: “I think what it reflects in this moment, and at this particular moment in our country, is a new mood, and a feeling like…make new sounds. And I’m glad I was here to make a few.” In this remote, synchronous course, we will study the work of some of the Black playwrights who made these new sounds. The class will offer a particular focus on the plays of Hansberry, Alice Childress, William B. Branch, and James Baldwin, as we explore their theatrical voices and styles, their conversations with each other, and their dialogue with their times. The course will demonstrate how Black dramatists, from the late-1940s through the mid-1960s, combatted systemic racism and the cultural repressions of the Cold War era, while exploring such themes as the tension between individual identity and collective politics; racial stereotypes in show business; the complexities of interracial marriage; and the expression of queer desire. In a multitude of ways, these playwrights blended theatrical innovation with the envisioning of what Hansberry called “a true and genuine equality.”

Learning Outcomes:

Delivery Method: Entirely remote (synchronous)
Course Level: 2000-level
Credits: 4
M/Th 3:40PM - 5:30PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 20
Course Frequency: One time only

Categories: All courses , Entirely Remote , Literature
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