The African Continuum: The Progeny in the New World
One of the prime concerns of black women playwrights in America is the black family or the African continuum. Alice Childress, Lorraine Hansberry, and Ntozake Shange view the black family through very new and wide lenses that allow them to enlarge this social unit to include not only blood-related individuals, but also persons linked by race, culture, heritage, and shared ancestry. This interactional family, one that connects black peoples of the world, informs, reinforces, inspires, and empowers blacks to survive the worst possible odds. To approach the black family, in America and elsewhere, as the progeny of Africa is to give credence to its wholeness. A close examination of selected plays of these authors reveals that the portraits of the black family are varied, but the message remains constant: an indissoluble and intimate bond exists that fortifies and preserves the integrity of the black family.
Childress, Hansberry, and Shange insist that the black family is viable and stable, and does have a heritage beyond slavery. In fact their plays uniquely demonstrate that the black family in America is indestructible and regenerative almost solely because of the strong bonds that exist between African Americans and their immediate and distant past. In redefining and broadening the black family, these playwrights clearly point out that black people have a common history, a common set of reactions to the white world, and a common destiny.
The black families in the plays of Childress, Hansberry, and Shange, generally are headed by women, are transplants from the South to the North, are severely disadvantaged, and are active seekers of survival strat-