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The Civil Rights and Black Arts Movements in Performance
AFAM 228
Spring 2008
Section: 01  
Crosslisting: THEA 227, AMST 226

The 1960s are often said to be the most political moment in African American history because of the emergence of two sociopolitical movements simultaneously. The performances of the period reflect these two movements: the mostly Southern, rural-based Civil Rights Movement, and the mostly Northern, urban-centered Black Arts Movement. In this course, we will concentrate on two types of performance: public responses to America's historical sanctioning of violence on African Americans; and black theatre's representation of itself as a community. Of the many art forms generated during the Civil Rights and Black Arts movements, black theatre in particular (probably due to its form as a live performance) was under strong pressure to represent on stage the violence of the times, which black dramatists resisted in order to freely develop a new black aesthetic. Beginning in 1955, we will look at the first, angry public performance in the black community (the funeral of Emmett Till) and its contemporary in theatre, THE AMEN CORNER by James Baldwin. Probably because the plot was intraracial, rather than interracial, the domestric drama AMEN CORNER was not produced until the mid-1960s. We will then move to the first play to be directed, written and acted by African Americans on Broadway, Lorraine Hansberry's A RAISIN IN THE SUN (1959). Again, the artistic triumph of RAISIN was overshadowed by the nightly news coverage of the Greensboro, South Carolina lunch counter sit-ins, as well as simultaneous sit-ins across the South. As the first integrated theatre company to tour Mississippi during the Freedom Summer of 1964, the Free Southern Theater will also be studied. Back in the north and in the west, the playwrights LeRoi Jones/Imamu Amiri Baraka, Ed Bullins, Ron Milner, Sonia Sanchez, Adrienne Kennedy, Allice Childress, Douglas Turner Ward and Joseph A. Walker were all generating plays written in a new black idiiom, which were then produced at new, black-run theatres such as the New Lafayette in Harlem and the Negro Ensemble Company. In these plays of the Black Arts Movement, the protests and violence of the era are confronted on the stage, both in dialogue and action, finally melding the former competing spheres of public and dramatic performance.

Essential Capabilities: None
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA AFAM
Course Format: SeminarGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: None
Past Enrollment Probability: Not Available

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