handed the torch from preceding generations, have continued to move forward, to develop, to expand, and to contribute to the literature of the American theater." 72
Childress' writing career spans four decades, making her the mother of professional black theater in America. Hansberry's 1959 Broadway debut made black theater fashionable and marketable. Shange's 1976 explosive choreopoem broadened black theater to include a quest for sexual as well as racial and social identity. The dramaturgical advances made by these women are as interdependent as African Americans are to their African counterparts, a subject that is prominent in the works of all three women. It was because of Childress' pioneering spirit that Hansberry's vision could be shared with the world and Shange's new temper could appeal to women everywhere of every race.