The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World Analysis

The Play (Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

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.)

The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World Bibliography (Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Bernard, Louise. “The Musicality of Language: Redefining History in Suzan-Lori Parks’s The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World.” African American Review 31, no. 4 (Winter, 1997): 687-700. Focuses on Parks’s use of language and its connection to African American identity.

Haring-Smith, Tori. “Dramaturging Non-realism: Creating a New Vocabulary.” Theatre Topics 13, no. 1 (2003): 45-54. Discusses the process of working with non-realistic theatrical elements in the plays of Parks and Caryl Churchill.

Rayner, Alice, and Harry J. Elan, Jr. “Unfinished Business: Reconfiguring History in Suzan-Lori Parks’s The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World.Theatre Journal 46, no. 4 (1994): 447-461. Discusses Parks’s use of language to rework African American history.

Wetmore, Kevin J., Jr., and Alicia Smith-Howard. Suzan-Lori Parks: A Casebook. New York: Routledge, 2007. The first critical volume on Parks; contains eight articles and an interview with the playwright.

Wood, Jacqueline. “Sambo Subjects: ’Declining the Stereotype’ in Suzan-Lori Parks’s Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World.Studies in the Humanities, June-December, 2001, 109-122. Discusses Parks’s appropriation and subversion of African American stereotypes.