Langston Hughes: Folk Dramatist in the Protest Tradition, 1921-1943

By Joseph McLaren | Go to book overview

Hughes also treated war themes in The Colored Soldier," a poem that explores the contradictions of race and valor, and The Ballad of the Man Who Went to War, a radio script intended for British audiences. The ballad was directed to those working in war plants, entertainers of the troops, and those who purchase victory bonds. 49

Despite excessive patriotism, The Ballad of the Man Who Went to War and For This We Fight both present the ironies of black participation in the military, a theme found in a limited number of 1940s literary works, plays, and films. Stanley Richards play District of Columbia exposes the ironies of segregation and interracial camaraderie. In the play, Corporal Edwards, a black soldier, is barred from white-owned drinking establishments in Washington when he tries to have a reunion drink with his white soldier friends. Edwards hopes that agitation for "liberty and equality ain't just idle talk." 50

In the short story Flying Home ( 1944), Ralph Ellison indirectly refers to the Tuskegee Airmen in the portrayal of Todd, the black airman from the North who is alienated from southern black folk by "technology" and his fear of derision by white officers. 51 During the war years, a few films addressed blacks soldiers. The Negro Soldier ( 1944), written by the African American producer Carlton Moss, was built on the Frank Capra model. Other Hollywood war films that contained black characters were Bataan ( 1943), Crash Dive ( 1943), Lifeboat ( 1944), and Home of the Brave ( 1949). 52

Despite its limited treatment during the '40s, the African American in World War II became a viable theme for later stage and film productions: Charles Fuller Pulitzer Prize winning drama, A Soldier's Play ( 1981), set in 1944 at Fort Neal, a Louisiana army camp; Leslie Lee play Black Eagles ( 1991); and the film The Tuskegee Airmen ( 1995)--the latter two both dealing with the Tuskegee fliers--address the experiences of African Americans in segregated units. One of the most objectionable insults to black soldiers depicted in The Tuskegee Airmen is the status accorded German war prisoners, who were allowed to ride in the rear cars of Jim Crow trains. 53


NOTES
1.
Arnold Rampersad, The Life of Langston Hughes, Vol. I: 1902-1941, I, Too, Sing America ( New York: Oxford UP, 1986) 366, 369; Faith Berry, Langston Hughes: Before and Beyond Harlem ( Westport, CT: Lawrence Hill, 1983) 283.
2.
Langston Hughes, "The New Negro Theater, Los Angeles", ts., cat. #787, LHP-YUBL; New Negro Theatre documents, "Theater Organization". The Theatre would be funded by Theatre Patrons, Subscribing Patrons, and Organizing Patrons--some patrons contributing $5.00 annually; Theatre Board members would include various patrons as well as "distinguished people

-159-

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Langston Hughes: Folk Dramatist in the Protest Tradition, 1921-1943
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Publication/Copyright Page iv
  • Dedication Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Foreword xi
  • Note xiii
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Abbreviations xvii
  • Introduction 1
  • Endnotes 12
  • Chapter 1 - Folk Comedy in Collaboration: The Mule Bone Affair 17
  • Endnotes 29
  • Chapter 2 - Radical Drama and the Black Community 33
  • Endnotes 54
  • Chapter 3 - The Tragic Mode: Mulatto 59
  • Endnotes 74
  • Chapter 4 - The Gilpin Players and the Karamu Comedies 79
  • Endnotes 97
  • Chapter 5 - The Karamu Tragedies 101
  • Endnotes 114
  • Additional Info *
  • Chapter 6 - The Harlem Suitcase Theatre 117
  • Endnotes 136
  • Chapter 7 - Community Theatre, Black Iconography, and World War II 141
  • Notes 159
  • Notes 165
  • Notes 170
  • Afterword 173
  • Bibliography 175
  • Index 181
  • About the Author *
  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Afro-American and African Studies *
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