Dutchman Questions and Answers
by Amiri Baraka

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To what does the title of Dutchman refer?

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Dutchman by Amiri Baraka is a one-act play from 1964. It details an interaction on a New York subway train between a black man and a white woman, which is meant to represent the tension between the two races.

The "Dutchman" of the title is representative of two things. The first is that it is an allusion to the ships that brought enslaved Africans to North America between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. These ships were made in the Netherlands and were, thus, Dutch. This is an important reference to the story, as it has a deep connection to the African American identity and the struggles of black men and women in America.

Another symbol brought to mind by the title (and probably one's first thought upon seeing it) is a ship called The Flying Dutchman. The Flying Dutchman was a ghost ship that sailed on an endless journey across the sea. Its passengers were unable to get off, just like the two main characters in this story are unable to get off the subway. This ship on its unending trip can also be compared to the subway journey the characters are on, which also seems like it will last forever, with no easy escape for its passengers.

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