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BWW Blog: 5 Black Playwrights to Know

This Black History Month, celebrate the work of Black artists while expanding your knowledge of theatre history.

1. Alice Childress (1916-1994)

Alice Childress was an actor, director, advocate, and playwright whose career in theatre spanned over 50 years. Childress became the first professionally produced Black female playwright in 1950. In 1956, she became the first Black woman to win an Obie Award for Best Original Play for Trouble in Mind. Many of her plays and novels were targeted toward young audiences and discussed difficult social issues such as teen pregnancy and drug use. Her works include A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a Sandwich, Florence, Wedding Band, and Sea Island Song.

2. Charles Fuller (1939-)

The Philadelphia-based playwright wrote largely about his experience serving in the Army shortly after the Korean War. After co-founding the Afro-American Theatre of Philadelphia, Fuller found success off-Broadway throughout the 1970s. He received the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for A Soldier's Play and a 1985 Oscar nomination for it's film adaptation, A Soldier's Story. Other popular works include In My Many Names and Days, Zooman and the Sign, and The Candidate.

3. Deal Orlandersmith (1959-)

Deal Orlandersmith is a contemporary playwright and actor whose plays have been produced by Manhattan Theatre Club, Goodman Theatre, St. Louis Repertory Theatre and many more. Her play Yellowman was a finalist for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Many of her plays involve 1-2 actors (often Orlandersmith herself) playing several characters. Orlandersmith's 2016 play Until The Flood was written in response to the death of Michael Brown and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

4. Amiri Baraka (1934-2014)

Amiri Baraka, also known as LeRoi Jones, was one of the most outspoken and controversial activist writers of the 20th century. His works are loaded with surrealism and symbolism, and centrally focus on race and gender identity throughout the Civil Rights Era and afterward. Some of his best known plays are Dutchman, A Black Mass, Home on the Range, and The Slave.

5. Marita Bonner (1899-1971)

Marita Bonner was one of the prominent writers of the Harlem Renaissance. In 1925, her essay "On Being Young-A Woman-And Colored" brought her national fame. Bonner was one of the first to write about intersectionality, with works documenting the experiences of ordinary Black women in the 1920s-30s. Her plays and short stories include The Purple Flower, The Pot Maker, Light in Dark Places, and Exit, An Illusion.

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From This Author Student Blogger: Emily Earle