The plays included in this anthology represent seven decades of black female vision, beginning in the 1920s and concluding in the 1980s. There was a real need for an anthology that includes plays by black women that span from the earliest efforts to the present. This collection represents an effort to make available plays written by black women that have not been published or have appeared in now defunct journals or books now out of print. Scholars will now be able to take a close look at these plays and see the contributions that black women dramatists have made not only to African American theater but to American theater.
Wines in the Wilderness: Plays by African American Women from the Harlem Renaissance to the Present pulls together plays by nine black women, including Marita Bonner, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Eulalie Spence, May Miller, Shirley Graham, Alice Childress, Sonia Sanchez, Sybil Kein, and Elizabeth Brown-Guillory. The anthology contains fifteen plays, each with a critical introduction. The selection of these dramatists for inclusion into this anthology was based on two criteria. First, these dramatists are representative and have made considerable contributions to African American theater. Second, the plays of six of these dramatists are the subject of my book Their Place on the Stage: Black Women Playwrights in America ( Greenwood Press, 1988). With the availability of these plays, scholars may continue mining the riches of African American women's drama.
The title of the anthology was inspired by Alice Childress play Wine in the Wilderness, in which a condescending, middle-class black man is taught by a grass-roots black woman who has been severely abused that what a black man needs is to learn to love his heritage and to learn that he can make it in the jungle if he has a bottle of wine, a loaf of bread, and a good black woman. It seemed fitting that the anthology be given such a title, particularly since the plays by these nine dramatists are about leading African Americans out of the wilderness of self-hatred and into the clearing of selflove and love for each other.