Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

August Wilson’s ambition, which he fulfilled shortly before his death, was to write ten plays, each exploring African American life in a different decade of the twentieth century. Jitney, set in the 1970’s, presents a community threatened by urban renewal. Wilson told Sandra Shannon that it was important to him to show the jitney drivers surviving in jobs they created for themselves. The characters’ stories and conversations reveal their attitudes and values. Out of their interactions, especially those between Youngblood and Rena and between Becker and Booster, arise what Wilson considered to be the universal themes of love, honor, duty, and betrayal.