The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World is divided into six sections: the overture and five panels. The panels comprise three scenes—featuring Black Man with Watermelon and Black Woman with Fried Drumstick—and two choruses that, like the overture, include all the characters. Suzan-Lori Parks has said that these choruses are like the refrains of a song, but their connection to the Greek use of a chorus to illuminate and comment upon the play’s action is also clear. Each section features the sound of a bell, often at the end of the scene or chorus.
The overture begins with Black Man—who is dead and who will die in many ways associated with the historical oppression of black men during the play—announcing he will move his hands, a refrain that he repeats throughout the overture. Black Woman alerts the audience to the play’s fluid, non-linear time frame when she refers to her husband’s death “just uh moment uhgoh in 1317.” Yes and Greens Black-eyed Peas Cornbread urges her to write this piece of history down, a line that will also be repeated. Black Man laments that the world used to be “roun”; Queen-then-Pharaoh Hatshepsut notes the addition of the letter d to “round” after Columbus ended things: His discovery that the world was not flat, as Europeans had thought, caused whites to figure out their own place in the scheme of things and consequently to put blacks in their place—outside of history.
Panel 1, “Thuh Holy Ghost,” opens...
(The entire section is 620 words.)