Radical Drama and the Black Community
Langston Hughes's most productive period as a dramatist was the 1930s, a decade during which didactic drama in America addressed such themes as unionization, strikes, fascism, class consciousness, unemployment, sharecropping, and racism. Hughes Scottsboro Limited ( 1931), Blood on the Fields ( 1934), and Angelo Herndon Jones ( 1936) focus on a variety of these issues. 1 In addition, Hughes portrayed black families and communities in Soul Gone Home ( 1936) and Mother and Child ( 1936) without allusions to political ideology or overt social protest. Aside from Blood on the Fields, these works are all one-act plays, some of which show experimental technique.
Scottsboro Limited: Four Poems and a Play in Verse is a symbolic reenactment of the Scottsboro incident and the legal case that followed. Unlike the conventional form of Mulatto and Mule Bone, that of Scottsboro Limited is experimental, using innovative staging and poetry. The play portion was originally published in New Masses and the poems in a variety of journals including Contempo, Opportunity, and New Masses. The 1932 Los Angeles production of Scottsboro Limited, which was also staged in Paris and Moscow, was initially blocked when the police prevented Loren Miller, a black lawyer involved in the John Reed Club, from presenting the production. Hughes, who had been in Los Angeles to attend a large meeting on the Scottsboro case, saw the May 8 performance by the Rebel Players. 2