The Karamu Tragedies
Staged at Karamu for a six-day run, November 18 to 23, 1936, Troubled Island, also titled Emperor of Haiti: An Historical Drama, reflects Langston Hughes's interest in Pan-Africanism and the African Diaspora. Having journeyed to Haiti in 1932, Hughes undoubtedly used his firsthand experience in portraying the island setting. Hughes had begun drafting ideas for Emperor of Haiti as early as 1928, completing the final draft in September 1936. Rowena Jelliffe assisted in the revisions made during rehearsals of the play. The play was renamed Drums of Haiti for an April 15, 1937, Detroit production by Elsie Roxborough.
Emperor of Haiti also became the basis for Troubled Island: An Opera, Hughes's collaborative work with William Grant Still, which was first performed on March 31, 1949. Another of Hughes's collaborative treatments of Haiti is Popo and Fifina: Children of Haiti ( 1932)--written with Arna Bontemps--intended for young readers. Popo and Fifina, which was dramatized by Brunetta Mouzon and used in Chicago public schools, depicts the Citadel and Voodoo. The story concerns the family of Papa Jean and their move from the hills to town. 1
Emperor of Haiti, Hughes's first historical play, draws on incidents and figures of the Haitian Revolution, 1791 to 1804, after which the island of St. Domingue was renamed Haiti by Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the "field commander" of Toussaint L'Ouverture, the leader of the revolution. Dessalines superseded Toussaint, who died in a French prison in 1803. Toussaint, Dessalines, and Henri Christophe, Dessa