James Baldwin Drama Analysis
James Baldwin’s image as an African American racial spokesperson during the 1950’s and 1960’s guarantees his place in American cultural history. His fiction and essays, both aesthetically and as charts of the movement from universalism to militancy in African American thought, have earned for him serious and lasting attention. Nevertheless, Baldwin’s significance as a dramatist remains problematic. In large part because of Baldwin’s high public visibility, Blues for Mister Charlie was greeted as a major cultural event when it opened on Broadway at the ANTA Theater on April 23, 1964. Baldwin’s most direct expression of political anger to that time, the play echoed the warning to white America sounded in The Fire Next Time, the essay that had catapulted Baldwin to prominence in the mass media. Despite its immediate impact, however, Blues for Mister Charlie failed to win lasting support. Numerous African American critics, particularly those associated with the community theater movement of the late 1960’s, dismissed the play as an attempt to attract a mainstream white audience. Mainstream critics, drawing attention to the contradiction between Baldwin’s political theme and his attack on protest writing in “Everybody’s Protest Novel,” dismissed the play as strident propaganda. Critics of diverse perspectives united in dismissing the play as theatrically static. The play’s closing, following a four-month run, underscored...
(The entire section is 2563 words.)
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