Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Drama, Revised Edition)
In White America is a historical play that provides a sweeping overview of how racism, directed against African Americans, affected both blacks and whites from colonial times to the immediate aftermath of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954. The play is a skillful blending of narration, documents, dialogue, and song designed to raise the historical consciousness of the audience. It is the story of individual black Americans throughout American history, who, as the author states, “managed to endure as men while being defined as property.” In this, Martin Duberman achieves his stated objective of combining “the evocative power of the spoken word with the confirming power of the historical fact.”
Clearly the hypocrisy of white America is a dominant theme running throughout the play. Lofty ideals of “unalienable rights” proclaimed at the nation’s birth were in direct opposition to real conditions faced by African Americans first shackled by slavery and then lashed by Jim Crow laws and racial segregation in post-Civil War America. This hypocrisy is reflected not only by congressmen and senators but also by presidents like Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Johnson, and Woodrow Wilson.
However, the play’s major theme is the quest for freedom and equality. Historically, slaves’ aspirations for freedom expressed in spirituals were manifested by such “escape routes” as the Underground Railroad, Nat...
(The entire section is 389 words.)
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