three women dramatists are important because they supply America with
plausible, and in some cases unique, images of black men and women.
Some dare to ask, "Do black women playwrights really depict black life?"
Unequivocally, they do, but these images must be viewed in conjunction
with the images portrayed by black males in order to piece together an
accurate picture of black life. Others may ask, "Do black women playwrights represent the majority of blacks?" These selected playwrights do
not depict images that represent the majority of blacks. No two or three
writers can, nor should have to try. These three dramatists do, however,
present a vital slice of life, and it is up to many more black writers to capture
the multitude of images of blacks.
Perhaps the most important question to be asked is "Will society be
different after meeting the characters in the plays of these black women?"
The answer is yes, significantly so. When blacks turn to the theater for
better ways to live, Childress, Hansberry, and Shange offer them a multiplicity of options via black characters who come from the heart of the
black community. Contemporary black women playwrights give to the
American stage a view from the other half: the black and feminine perspective.
Alvin Goldfarb and
Edwin Wilson, Living Theater: An Introduction to Theater
History ( New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1983), p. 427.
Jean Fagan Yellin, The Intricate Knot: Black Figures in American Literature, 1776-
1863 ( New York: New York University Press, 1972), pp. 3-8.
Wilson, p. 415.
Jeanne-Marie A. Miller, "Black Women Playwrights from Grimke to Shange: Selected Synopses of their Works," in All the Women Are ; White, All the Blacks Are
Men, But Some of Us Are Brave (Old Westbury, N.Y.: The Feminist Press, 1982),
Gloria T. Hull,
Patricia Bell-Scott, and
Barbara Smith, p. 2 80).
Sterling Brown, Negro Poetry and Drama and the Negro in American Fiction
( New York: Atheneum, 1972), p. 139.
Donald Bogle, Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive
History of Blacks in American Films, ( New York: The Viking Press, 1973).
Michele Wallace, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman ( New York: The Dial Press, 1978), p. 22.
Jeanne-Marie A. Miller, "Images of Black Women in Plays by Blacks," CLA
Journal, vol. 20 ( June 1977), p. 494.
Robert Staples, Black Masculinity: The Black Male's Role in American Society
( San Francisco, Cal.: The Black Scholar Press, 1982), p. 1.
Maya Angelou's comments about the existing stereotypes of black women
are cited by
Trudier Harris in From Mammies to Militants in Black American Literature
( Philadelphia, Penn.: Temple University Press, 1982), p. 4.