What do you think is the key message of Dutchman by Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka?

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lprono eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Leroi Jones wrote Dutchman as he was about to change his name into Amiri Baraka and embrace black nationalism. The play mirrors this transition as it retains some experimental and avant-garde techniques of the artists' earlier career, but anticipates the political militancy of his later pieces. Dutchman depicts the murder of Clay, a black middle-class male by Lula, a white female. The fact that Lula is preparing to murder again as the play closes shows that Jones conceives the act of violence as a ritual that is constantly repeating itself. Therefore, the key message of the text is to encourage black people to rebel against a violent, white world that exploits and kills them. Through the character of Clay, a bourgeois African American who has adopted a lifestyle acceptable to the white middle-classes, Jones shows that assimilation to white society and values is not a solution to racism. On the contrary, this attitude costs Clay his own life.