Margaret Walker Alexander
Elizabeth Brown-Guillory has accomplished three major tasks in this very important and absorbing book. She has first of all given an historical overview of black women playwrights in this twentieth century; second, she has analyzed and assessed the works of three major examples: Alice Childress, Lorraine Hansberry, and Ntozake Shange; and third, she has given some objective thought to the general structure and criticism of drama as a whole, with particular emphasis on black drama.
It is good to remember that American drama has really come of age in the twentieth century, that plays on the American stage in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were really little more than glorified minstrels, farces, and melodramas. Eugene O'Neill is the first great name in the Hall of American Playwrights and following him there may be about a half dozen great names: Maxwell Anderson, Robert Sherwood, Edward Albee, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, and Lillian Hellman. So it is not surprising that black theater in America had its real beginnings with the Harlem Renaissance, and in that famous group at least four women wrote plays. They were May Miller, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, and Angelina Weld Grimke. Since Johnson was the most successful of these four, with her Plumes ( 1927) appearing off-Broadway, Brown-Guillory chooses her as her first example, showing the tradition out of which subsequent black women playwrights have come.
Between the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s are three decades, the thirties, forties, and the fifties. While the Chicago Renaissance of the thirties and forties produced few playwrights,