From Seeking One's Voice to Uttering the Scream: The Pioneering Journey of African American Women Playwrights through the 1960s and 1970s

By Barrios, Olga | African American Review, Winter 2003 | Go to article overview

From Seeking One's Voice to Uttering the Scream: The Pioneering Journey of African American Women Playwrights through the 1960s and 1970s


Barrios, Olga, African American Review


No Black woman even like nowadays tells you things you're familiar with, like Black women have problems. In a family situation, I'm talking about a classic, if you understand what I'm saying, a classic Black woman figure. Showing her not just surviving, yet surviving, not just being but being, but also not just being a slave but you know still being a slave, not just being a whole but just the Black woman in all her majesty. The Black woman in all her non-majesty as well. The Black woman surviving yet not surviving but being. If that makes any kind of sense. (Sanchez 163)

The 1960s and 1970s were undoubtedly two of the most important and productive decades in African American history and the arts. During this period, black artists in general, and black women in particular, expressed their needs in new aesthetic and linguistic venues that gave expression to their real feelings. Black theater became the literary vehicle of choice for many African male and female artists. The Black Theater Movement of the 1960s (1) in the United States emerged as the African American artists' venue for re-visioning and re-constructing their community's history, culture, and art--for developing a black aesthetics apart from Western parameters. Following the aesthetic concerns and artistic manifestations of the Black Theater Movement in the 1960s, African American women began a search to find their own voices within their communities, adding a gender perspective that widened and completed the delineation established by male theater artists. These two decades were pivotal in erecting the foundations for the development of the subsequent theater created by African American women.

This study focuses on four African American women playwrights as representatives and pioneers of black women's searching journey into the theater and into their selves: Adrienne Kennedy, Ntozake Shange, Aishah Rahman, and Alexis De Veaux. These playwrights' exploratory journey began with the recognition and examination of the anguish enmeshed in their silent voices, which can be observed in Sarah's split personality between the black and white worlds in Adrienne Kennedy's Funnyhouse of a Negro (1964). Once pain had been confronted, black women felt the need to utter it in unison with their sisters, as one can see in Ntozake Shange' s for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf (first presented in Berkeley in 1974), where dance conveys a celebration of unity and hope. And it is Aishah Rahman, in Unfinished Women Cry in No Man's Land, While a Bird Dies in a Gilded Cage (1977), who actually represents African American women's scream by focusing on the pain suffered by young unwed women--unfinished women--in juxtaposition with Charlie Parker's music, whose saxophone acts as a baby's cry, uttering these women's tribulations. Finally, Alexis De Veaux in The Tapestry (1975) presents the path followed by the new African American woman, already aware of her daily striving to survive, by examining the individual woman as a social, political, and sexual being while trying to find new dimensions to her relationships with family, tradition, friends, and lover. As a group, these writers reveal the African American woman's progression from the detection and recognition of pain to its verbalization and, subsequently, to self-affirmation through a wide range of dramatic means, thereby contributing to the re-mapping of theater conceptions. As a result, these playwrights have become the forerunners of contemporary African American theater written, directed, and performed by women.

Introduction

The need to achieve a position of power, the need for the writers to express themselves in their own voices, and the need to gain self-esteem by presenting a complex perspective that reconstructs black women's history against oppression and stereotyping--these are the issues presented by Sonia Sanchez in the epigraph to this essay. Although there have been many African American women writers throughout North American literary history, only after the 1950s did their voices begin to be heard beyond their community's boundaries (Wilkerson, Nine 19). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

From Seeking One's Voice to Uttering the Scream: The Pioneering Journey of African American Women Playwrights through the 1960s and 1970s
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.