Glancing out the window of a subway train, a conservatively dressed black man of about twenty catches the eye of an attractive, thirtyish white woman who is standing on the platform. They exchange smiles. It is the sort of meaningless casual encounter, leading nowhere, that can leave a pleasant afterglow.
As the train moves on, the woman from the platform enters the car. She is wearing bright, skimpy summer clothes and sandals, and she carries a net bag full of paperback books, fruit, and other articles. A beautiful woman with long red hair, she is very daintily eating an apple.
Taking the seat beside the young man, she confirms that she is the woman he was just looking at, but she insists that his look carried more of a sexual charge than he is willing to admit. He denies that he was running his mind over her flesh, and he finds it “funny” that she has sought him out, as she says she has done, in response to his sexual aggression. She remarks that he looks as though he is trying to grow a beard; when he asks if he really looks like that, she replies that she lies a lot. This is the first of a series of verbal attacks, retreats, and evasions that will keep Clay for much of the play in a mixed state of curiosity, desire, and confusion.
His curiosity is aroused by her uncannily accurate guesses, if they are guesses, about himself, his associates, and his life. How does she know, for instance, that his friend Warren Enright is tall and skinny, with a phony English accent? She just figured he would know someone like that, she says.
She keeps Clay’s desire alive by a pattern of verbal and nonverbal sexual innuendo. She puts her hand on his thigh, then removes it, checking his reaction as she does. She asks if he would like to get involved with her. She is a beautiful woman, the young man replies; he would be a fool not to.
She confuses Clay by sudden swerves from whatever has become the topic of conversation. “I bet you’re sure you know what you’re talking about,” she says.
She offers him an apple. On the surface, this seems unrelated to the curiosity, desire, and confusion she arouses, but her comment that eating apples together is always the first step puts a sinister spin on this apparently innocent action.
She suggests that Clay invite her to a party. He playfully objects that he must first know her name. “Lena the Hyena,” she tells him, then attempts to guess his name. Gerald? Norman? Everett? She is sure it must be one of those “hopeless colored names” creeping out of New Jersey. It is Clay, he tells her. Her name, she now declares, is not Lena but Lula. That settled, Clay formally invites Lula to the party. Her reply, given her behavior to this point, sounds disconcertingly prim and conventional. She does not know him, she says.
In another of her turnabouts, she then insists that she knows him like the palm of her hand. The play of sexual titillation continues. She says that she knows him like the palm of the hand she uses to unbutton her dress, to remove her skirt.
Why, she wants to know, is Clay dressed in a three-button suit, with narrow shoulders? Why is he wearing a striped tie? Those clothes are for white men. Your grandfather was a slave, she reminds him. Clay corrects her: His grandfather was a night watchman. How does Clay see himself? Lula asks....
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In college, Clay says, he considered himself to be a poet, a Baudelaire. Lula wants to know if Clay ever once thought he was a black nigger.
The word stuns Clay for a moment, but he decides to take it as a joke. He is willing to be called a black Baudelaire. When Lula tells Clay that he is a murderer, he is simply confused once again. Lula says in another swerve that they are both free of their history, or at least they can pretend to be.
As the second scene begins, Lula has established complete control. Clay kisses her neck and fingers as she enunciates promises of sexual delights to come. After the party, they will go to her house, where the real fun begins. Clay thinks he knows what the real fun is, but Lula says they will talk endlessly. About what, Clay wants to know. About the subject they have been talking about all along, Lula tells him: about his manhood.
Clay notices other passengers entering the car. As the scene proceeds, the car fills with passengers, both black and white. Do the other passengers frighten him? Lula asks. They should. After all, he is an escaped nigger.
Lula’s behavior becomes more outrageous, her language more provocative and obsessively racial. She calls Clay a middle-class black bastard, then says he is no nigger, just a dirty white man. When Clay tells her to be cool, she tells him that he must break out. He must not sit there dying, the way “they” want him to die.
Finally Clay does break out. He slaps Lula and forces her to sit. At this show of power, the other passengers avert their eyes and retreat behind their newspapers. Now Clay talks. Lula knows nothing, he says, understands nothing. She does not know “belly rub.” She does not know that when Bessie Smith sings the blues she is saying, “Kiss my black ass.” She does not understand that the great jazz musician Charlie Parker would never have played a note of music if he had just walked up to East Sixty-seventh Street and killed the first ten white people he saw. The poem of a black poet—Clay implicitly includes himself—is a substitute for the thrust of a knife. The simplest and sanest act for Clay as a black man would be to murder a white person: to murder Lula.
Clay draws back from so stark and lucid an act. Who needs it? He would rather be a fool, safe with his words. He offers a final warning, though. Do not preach the advantages of white Western rationalism to black people, for if you do, they will one day murder you and offer very rational explanations for what they have done.
When Lula says that she has heard enough, Clay prepares to leave. It appears as though they will not be acting out those erotic fantasies in which they have been indulging. As Clay bends to retrieve his belongings, Lula plunges a small knife into his chest. At her command, the other passengers, black and white, dispose of the dead body. They disembark at the next stop, leaving Lula alone in the car.
A young black man enters the car. When he sits a few seats behind Lula, she turns and gives him a long, slow look. Apparently in response, he drops the book he had begun to read. A black conductor does a sort of soft shoe dance down the aisle. He and the young man exchange greetings. The conductor tips his hat to Lula, who stares after him as he continues out of the car.
Dutchman is a short, two-scene play, the entire action of which takes place on a subway car traveling through the “underbelly of the city.” During the course of the play, Clay and Lula move from playful flirtation through angry accusation and self-revelation toward a violent confrontation that ends in ritualized murder.
At the start, Clay is seated alone on the subway car, reading a newspaper. He is dressed in a three-piece suit. Only his seat is visible, although more of the car is present. The shrieks and clattering of the subway car dominate, and the flickering lights of the subway tunnel and passing stations move past the car’s windows. As the play proceeds, the train sounds gradually lessen and disappear. After a while, the car stops at a station. Clay glances out the window but turns away in momentary embarrassment when he discovers that he is staring directly into a young white woman’s face. When he collects himself and turns back, the face has disappeared. The train resumes its movement, and Clay complacently returns to his newspaper. Then Lula enters the car and approaches him.
Lula is wearing a light summer dress and sandals. She sports bright red lipstick and carries a large net bag stuffed with paperback books, fruit, and a variety of other articles. She daintily eats an apple as she slowly approaches Clay’s seat and then expectantly hangs onto the strap next to him. When she catches his eye, she asks permission to sit and seductively lowers herself into the seat.
Lula initiates a playful conversation that implies romantic interest, but quickly reveals a disorienting knowledge of Clay’s family, friends, and behavior. She accurately describes his middle-class life-style and laughingly tells him that he looks “like death eating a soda cracker.” Clay assumes that Lula must know one of his friends, but Lula tells him that she simply knows his “type.” Clay plays along with Lula’s mockery because he sees her humor as flirtation, but her scorn for his assimilationist behavior and her knifelike cynicism become increasingly obvious. She tells him that everything he says is “wrong” and implies that he is living a lie to disguise a more aggressive and primitive nature: “You’re a murderer, Clay, and you know it.” Lula’s sarcastic hostility is tempered by her sexual provocation. She asks to accompany Clay to his friend’s party, and the play’s first scene ends with Lula declaring that they will pretend that they are outside of history, “anonymous beauties smashing along through the city’s entrails.” She yells “GROOVE!” as the stage goes black to end the first scene.
When the second scene of the play starts, other seats on the car are visible, and some are occupied. During the remainder of the scene, other passengers, black and white, enter the car and take seats until the car is nearly full.
Lula continues her description of the coming romantic evening in the comically false language of bad art, but her apparent playfulness is contradicted by her surprising assertion that their entire discussion has focused on Clay’s “manhood” and by her ominous prediction that when they make love later Clay will tell her that he loves her in order to keep her alive.
Lula’s narration becomes increasingly offensive, and Clay refuses to play along with her fantasy of him as an “escaped nigger” coming to her tenement apartment. When Clay resists, Lula becomes more aggressive, attempting to embarrass Clay by asking him to “belly rub” and then taunting him as “Uncle Thomas Woolly-Head.” Joined by a drunken passenger, she dances suggestively in the aisle of the car, deriding Clay for his supposed repression.
Her provocative behavior finally enrages Clay and he responds violently. He grabs Lula, clubs the drunk to the floor, throws Lula back in her seat, and slaps her. He then vents his anger in a monologue which expresses scorn of white liberals and defends his personal decision to avoid murder by assuming a middle-class life-style. He compares his actions to those of black artists and musicians who express their frustration and hatred disguised as art, calling their behavior a form of insanity that prevents them from sanely and rationally murdering white people.
As Clay finishes his tirade, Lula removes a knife from her bag and stabs him twice. At her command, the other passengers remove Clay’s body. She takes a small notebook from her bag, makes a notation, and sits down as the others leave the car. Before long another young black man enters the car and sits near Lula. She catches his eye and they exchange glances. The ritual of seduction and murder is evidently about to begin again. In a final ironic action, a comically stereotyped black conductor shuffles through the car, greets the young black man as “brother,” and continues walking as the curtain falls.
*New York City
*New York City. Literally an “overdrop” for the play, the city serves both as the realistic urban setting for highly charged racial dynamics between black and white Americans in the 1960’s and as Amiri Baraka’s mythic and symbolic setting for a critique of black consciousness and the Black Arts movement.
Subway tunnels. Subterranean passageways for the subway trains that symbolize places in which social and psychological realities are exposed in their true terms through interactions between characters moving underneath the surface of American culture. Below ground, violent truths of American history erupt into stark view, with profound consequences for particular human beings who cannot escape to the surface and its delusions of safety. The tunnels also function as metaphorical space: the interior consciousness of “the black artist,” who struggles to create (and literally, to survive) in a world controlled by the norms of white Western culture and aesthetics. At this symbolic level, the subterranean tunnel setting of the play is itself the action of the mind of an artist, struggling to freedom.
Subway car. Train car on which Clay and Lula encounter each other. With its passengers literally pressed into close proximity with one another, the car becomes the site of a compressed narrative of American racial history as it passes through the dark subway tunnels. Within this car, explosive conflicts are framed in harsh light and within sharply delineated space. Clay and Lula are trapped within historical roles and identities, on a stage that is speeding forward into time. The intensely philosophical and politicized violence that unfolds between the two characters is also a social violence shared by other riders when they eventually toss Clay’s body off the train. On this level, the car is America, exposed to light. Within the other symbolic space of the play, the mind of the “black artist,” the subway car serves as an illuminated moment of sharp insight into the threats posed to black artistic consciousness in America.
In Dutchman, Amiri Baraka uses a variety of dramatic devices to underscore the archetypal, mythic, and ritual nature of his play. The obvious artifice of the subway car set connects the play with the world of myth. The incompleteness of the subway car and the conscious artificiality of the flickering lights hung behind the windows deemphasize the realistic specificity of place. The limited lighting, which throughout the first scene highlights only Clay and Lula’s seat, focuses the audience’s attention on these principal characters and their personal interaction. In the second scene, more of the car is lit and other passengers are visible; thus, the audience’s attention is directed toward the social implications of the action. At the end of the play, Lula’s authority is revealed by the manner in which the other passengers unquestioningly follow her instructions; the passengers’ presence also emphasizes the weakness of Clay’s assimilationist strategy. Clay’s disguised existence alienates him from both white and black communities. Thus isolated, he is doomed, because his self-consciousness separates him from the redemptive possibilities of social action.
The comedy, exaggeration, and artificiality of Clay and Lula’s dialogue underscores their function as stereotypes. In the early portions of the play, Baraka creates comic tension between Clay’s determined literalism and Lula’s suggestive symbolism. Clay himself notes that their conversation sounds like a “script,” and at one point Lula feeds him lines, correcting his performance and making him repeat himself. Baraka does not want his audience to suspend disbelief, for an important theme of the play is the manner in which too many Americans guide their lives according to myths rather than their own individual judgments and experiences.
The physical violence with which the play concludes is important, for it underscores Baraka’s belief that violence is a means to self-discovery. Lula’s hysterical rantings and Clay’s sudden, frightening outburst startle the audience into a sudden realization of the hypocrisy that has ruled to that point. In contrast to the deceptive, posturing talk that precedes the play’s dramatic conclusion, the final violent moments seem to say that action is ultimately more legitimate than words. Clay’s concluding monologue is delivered as much to the audience as to Lula or the other passengers, and for this reason Dutchman is most effectively produced in relatively intimate theaters. Just as Clay has been lured into comfortable, false assumptions about Lula’s intentions, Dutchman lures its audiences into comfortable assumptions that are exploded at the conclusion. For a brief time, the anger that has built over the course of the play is released outward toward the audience, and they suddenly find themselves the unwitting accomplices to Clay’s destruction.
Civil Rights in the 1960s The year of Dutchman's debut, 1964, was a tense year in the United States—especially for civil rights issues. Both violent and nonviolent protests occurred daily in contention of these issues. Although it had been nearly a decade since Rosa Parks, by refusing to vacate her bus seat to a white patron, sparked a series of bus boycotts that led to a wholesale Civil Rights Movement, legalized equal rights for blacks were still denied in practice. Sit-ins and other forms of nonviolent resistance took place to protest the reluctance of some businesses, schools, and communities to support the civil rights that had been made law by the Civil Rights Act.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act made provisions for fair voting, use of public facilities, education, and employment practices, essentially abolishing segregation; and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was appointed to ensure that all races had the same opportunities in securing employment. Yet these laws were frequently ignored—especially in southern states such as Alabama and Mississippi. Often, emotions reached such a pitch that riots ensued in major cities (notably Harlem and Philadelphia) where the demographics had shifted to a black majority for the first time in history. These "race riots," in which blacks and whites hurled abuses both verbal and physical, would expand and persist virtually unabated for the next four years.
The summer before Dutchman debuted, Martin Luther King made his "I Have a Dream" speech at a civil rights rally in Washington, D.C. Then-president John F. Kennedy attempted to cancel the rally due to the threat of violence. King's protest was peaceful, however, and its success contributed to the enactment of the Civil Rights Acts in 1964. Of particular interest was equity in voting rights. To this end poll taxes, designed to discourage blacks who couldn't afford to vote, were outlawed. Northern civil rights workers often traveled to southern states to monitor elections and ensure that blacks were safe at the voting booths. Three such men traveled to Mississippi in 1964. On their way home, they were ruthlessly beaten and murdered by white supremacists, who were not brought to justice until the 1990s.
Baraka, being a political activist as well as a playwright, consciously used art as a means to achieve social justice. He was personally involved in race riots and on one occasion was arrested for the possession of firearms and incitement, although he denied the charge and was later acquitted. His play Dutchman participated in the discourse of hatred and violence of the times, taking a strong stand against one segment of the black population: those who attempted to assimilate with white culture at a time when many, Baraka included, felt the need for militant opposition to white oppression.
Black Arts Movement In the course of defining a new, self-determined black population, blacks eschewed the terms "negro" and "colored" that were associated with racism and oppression and demanded to be called "black" or Afro-American (and later, African American). Both terms affirmed positive aspects over negative ones: intensifying color to the extreme—black—and underscoring the African heritage of former slaves. These two trains of thought merged in the search for a new "black" identity. Styles, language, and values from African cultures were adopted and sometimes freely adapted to formulate the style of the "Afro-American." The phrase "black is beautiful" both acknowledged the aesthetic beauty of the black body and affirmed the value of black culture as the new black aesthetic as well.
Along with this dramatic shift in cultural identity came a shift in the assessment of black art. Although jazz had long been a black musical expression, it was considered more of a craft or practice than an acknowledged art form. Jazz became an art form in its own right, stepping out from the foster parentage of the (white) Bohemian culture. African artifacts became collector's items as art objects rather than as anthropological oddities.
Baraka was at the forefront of the re-evaluation of black and African art forms. He wrote jazz criticism for avant-garde magazines and consciously promoted black artists in music, art, theater, religion, and cultural values by finding avenues to move them into the public forum. He established a community center called Spirit House in Newark to disseminate new ideas about black culture. He was the driving force behind what became known as the Black Arts Movement, which celebrated black and African culture, the black body and facial features, and urban and rural black dialects. The Black Arts Movement included the didactic purpose of raising consciousness about black art and culture. It was the American counterpart to Negritude, the Caribbean movement to honor the art, music, and language of black culture in that part of the world.
Baraka's own poetry was quite explicit about the re-culturizing, political agenda of the Black Arts Movement. In a poem entitled "Black Art" from his 1966 collection Black Arts the final lines read, "Let the world be a Black Poem/And Let All Black People Speak This Poem/Silently/or LOUD" Baraka was considered the "high priest" of the Black Arts Movement, who, through theater, poetry, essays, and actions carried his message beyond the intellectual elite.
AllegoryDutchman's stage directions suggest that the subway is "heaped in modern myth." This phrase alerts the reader to the presence of allegorical meaning. Allegory presents an abstract idea in the guise of a concrete image and symbolic elements in the work point to the allegorical meaning. Thus the story of Clay and Lula holds more significance than the chance encounter of two individuals on a subway. Clues to the structure of the allegory, which is a kind of extended metaphor that organizes the story, exist in the symbols of the play: the apple, the subway, and the name "Clay," which seems to refer to Adam, who was made of clay; in this context, Clay is the black everyman.
In Dutchman, the key to the allegorical meaning of the relationship between Clay and Lula lies in the relationship between Adam and Eve. Eve (innocently or not, depending upon one's view), seduced Adam (with an apple, a symbolic element of that story) into partaking of forbidden knowledge. Lula seduces Clay sexually, partakes of apples with him, and then forces him to face the knowledge that his cloak of white, bourgeois values masks his social impotence; the knowledge is forbidden to Clay in the sense that it will shatter his illusions. In Baraka's allegory Lula personifies both white dominance and (Baraka's) disgust for black assimilation, while Clay personifies passive acceptance of low social status by blacks and their blind refuge-taking in the culture of their oppressor.
Symbolism Symbolic images and names evoke associations that contribute to the meaning of a literary work. In Dutchman, the image of the apple, Eve's prop, threads throughout the play. Lula first walks onto the set daintily eating an apple. She offers one to Clay, and then offers more and more of them to him until he refuses another. Her bounty of apples suggests that their evil poison is so pervasive that Clay will never be able to avoid contaminating himself.
The name of the play is also symbolic, referring to the legendary ghost ship the Flying Dutchman, doomed to endlessly sail the seas leaving only death in its wake; the title also suggests a connotation to the Dutch slave ships that transported blacks to enslavement. In addition, Clay's name connotes a black Adam, one who is molded by white society, like clay. The accumulation of related symbols and the structure of the relationship between Clay and Lula confirms the significance of this reading.
The setting of Dutchman also carries symbolic weight. Baraka drew attention to the importance of the train's symbolism in the stage directions, where he characterizes the subway as "heaped in modern myth." This is a play about the modern myth of black assimilation: limiting oneself to existence on the low-status paths of the "flying underbelly of the city." The entire play takes place in a subterranean universe, a subway car hurtling towards its destination. The train slows down, stops to let passengers on and off, and then regains speed. There is a sense of movement and progress, but the train is actually repeating the same route over and over. Clay is merely following the "track" of white culture, sensing forward motion but in reality restricted to the underbelly, or lower class, of the thriving city above. Subway trains ferry people back and forth across the city, traveling the same short distances over and over again, following a repetitious daily schedule—the path is cyclical. Likewise, Lula's process of seducing and killing her victims is cyclical. She indicates that she has done this for years and has a "gray hair for each year and type."
Autobiographical Elements At the time that Baraka wrote Dutchman, he was part of the Bohemian literary culture of Greenwich Village (the Beats) and was married to a white woman, with whom he co-edited a literary magazine. Like Clay, he grew up in New Jersey and had aspirations as a poet. Baraka's real life was a successful version of Clay's, however; he awoke from his dream of assimilation in time to save himself from his protagonist's fate.
In the play, Clay screams at Lula, "If I'm a middle-class fake white man...let me be. And let me be in the way I want." Only a year later Baraka would reject his entire white world—wife, children, and all—to start a new, black life in Harlem. To a certain extent, the play can be read as a trial of Baraka's assimilated period, in which he condemns himself through Lula's words and actions. The playwright symbolically kills off his passive, "white" self through this fictional account and is reborn in real life as the hero that Clay refuses (or is unable) to become.
1964: Tension over racism is at a peak, with numerous protests occurring in major urban centers. The 1964 Civil Rights Act is flagrantly ignored by many southern businesses, schools, and local governments. Although blacks now hold the same voting, working, and educational privileges as white Americans, they are sometimes actively (and illegally) barred from accessing these rights. The summer of 1964 is named "Freedom Summer" for the number of staged protest demonstrations that take place across the country in support of Civil Rights.
Today: Minorities are assured their legal rights as United States citizens. Schools, voting places, and businesses are vigilant in upholding civil rights laws.
1964: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is first established in 1964 to serve as a "watchdog" to assure that employers do not discriminate in hiring practices because of race, age, or gender. In 1965 President Johnson extends the reach of Equal Opportunity with an executive order for Affirmative Action requiring the active recruitment of minorities in employment and education.
Today: Some Americans want to do away with Affirmative Action, suggesting that it encourages reverse discrimination and that the advances made in equal opportunity over the past thirty years render Affirmative Action unnecessary. Opponents to California Proposition 209 insist that Affirmative Action should remain in place to combat the "glass ceiling" of unequal pay and status that still afflicts minorities and women in the job market.
1964: Race riots are widespread, with armed groups of whites and blacks openly fighting in the streets of urban areas such as Philadelphia and Harlem. On several occasions, the National Guard is called in to restore the peace. Race riots will occur in major cities such as Watts and Detroit over the next few years as the United States comes to terms with the implementation of the Civil Rights Acts.
Today: While race riots are now rare, in 1992, three days of violent rioting ensued in Los Angeles after the acquittal of four policeman who were videotaped beating a black man, Rodney King, during a routine traffic arrest. Once again, the National Guard had to be called in to restore peace, and property damage mounted to millions of dollars. This incident awakened Americans to the fact that discrimination in police forces and other bureaucratic agencies continues to plague minority Americans. In 1997, a poll reported that over two-thirds of Los Angeles' residents still consider race relations problematic.
Anthony Harvey directed a film version of Dutchman in 1967 that received little attention and played lightly at small theaters for a brief period. Al Freeman, Jr. played Clay and Shirley Knight portrayed Lula. Produced by Kaitlin Productions, Ltd. in association with the Dutchman Film Company. Available from San Francisco, California Newsreels.
SOURCES Bigsby, C. W. E. "Black Drama. The Public Voice" in his The Second Black Renaissance: Essays in Black Literature, Greenwood Press, 1980, pp. 207-56.
Cade, Tom. "Black Theater" in Black Expressions. Essays by and aboutBlack Americans in the Creative Arts, edited by Addison Gayle, Jr., Weybnght and Talley, 1969, pp. 134-43.
Eberstadt, Isabel "King of the East Village" in New York Herald Tribune, December 13, 1964, Sunday Magazine Section, p. 13.
Ferguson, John. "Dutchman and The Slave" in Modern Drama, February 13,1971, pp. 398-405.
Frost, David. Television interview with LeRoi Jones on The David Frost Show, Group W Productions, Westinghouse Broadcasting Company (Los Angeles), 1969.
Hudson, Theodore R. From LeRoi Jones to Amiri Baraka: The Literary Works, Duke University Press, 1973.
Lewis, Allan. American Plays and Playwrights of the Contemporary Theatre, Crown, 1965.
Margolies, Edward. Native Sons: A Critical Study of Twentieth Century Negro American Authors, Lippincott, 1968.
Miller, James A. "Amiri Baraka" in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 16: The Beats' Literary Bohemians in Post-War America, edited by Ann Charters, Gale (Detroit), 1983, pp 3-24.
Reilly, Charlie, Editor. Conversations with Amiri Baraka, University Press of Mississippi, 1994.
Schneck, Stephen. "LeRoi Jones, or, Poetics & Politics, or, Trying Heart, Bleeding Heart" in Ramparts, July 13,1968, pp 14-19.
"A Survey: Black Writers' Views on Literary Lions and Values" in Negro Digest, January, 1968, pp. 16-18.
Turner, Darwin T. Black American Literature: Poetry, Charles E. Merrill, 1969.
X, Marvin. "An Interview with Ed Bulhns Black Theatre" in Negro Digest, April, 1969, p. 16.
FURTHER READING Harris, William J. The Poetry and Poetics of Amin Baraka: The Jazz Aesthetic, University of Missouri Press, 1985. Finds traces of jazz elements in Baraka's poetic output.
Lacey, Henry C. To Raise, Destroy, and Create: The Poetry, Drama, and Fiction oflmamu Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), Whitson, 1981. An explication of many of Baraka's works as they fit into an assessment of his development as an artist.
Nelson, Hugh. "LeRoi Jones' s Dutchman: A Brief Ride on a Doomed Ship" in Educational Theatre Journal, Vol. 20, March 1968, pp 53-58. This essay describes the source of the Flying Dutchman motif in Baraka's play.
Olaniyan, Tejumola. Scars of Conquest/Masks of Resistance: The Invention of Cultural Identities in African, African-American, and Caribbean Drama, Oxford University Press, 1995. A work of post-colonialist criticism by a leading scholar of African American studies that describes how the expressive and performative nature of drama by Wole Soymka, Amin Baraka, Derek Walcott, and Ntozake Shange constitutes black artists' move away from Eurocentric and Afrocentric norms and conventions.
Tomlinson, John. Cultural Imperialism. A Critical Introduction, John Hopkins University Press, 1991. Explains the dynamics of the form of domination that occurs within the culture of societies, the form of domination that Baraka sought to rectify.
West, Cornel. Race Matters, Beacon Press, 1993. A thorough description of the social and economic dynamics of racism.
Benston, Kimberly W. Baraka: The Renegade and the Mask. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1976. Argues that Clay’s is a tragedy of lost direction and lack of knowledge: In deciding not to kill Lula, he rejects the power and violence that would allow him to dominate the situation; he thus reaffirms his vulnerability and falls victim to Lula’s malevolence.
Bigsby, C. W. E. “Black Theater.” In Beyond Broadway. Vol. 3 in A Critical Introduction to Twentieth-Century American Drama. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985. Analyzes the play in the context of the early 1960’s, as reflecting the self-awareness of a black playwright balancing a successful career as a writer and political necessities that seemed to require actions rather than words.
Brown, Lloyd W. Amiri Baraka. Boston: Twayne, 1980. Although Clay is killed, Brown sees a kind of triumph in the assertion of humanity that makes his death inevitable.
Fabre, Geneviève. “LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka: An Iconoclastic Theatre.” In Drumbeats, Masks, and Metaphor: Contemporary Afro-American Theatre. Translated by Melvin Dixon. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983. For Fabre, a paradox of the play is that Lula reveals Clay to himself. His awakening comes too late, because he has already made too many compromises and too soon, because it is merely an individual, rather than communal, awakening, and therefore it is ineffectual.
Luter, Matthew. “Dutchman’s Signifyin(g) Subway: How Amiri Baraka Takes Ralph Ellison Underground.” In Reading Contemporary African American Drama: Fragments of History, Fragments of Self, edited by Trudier Harris and Jennifer Larson. New York: Peter Lang, 2007. Argues that Baraka, despite his claims to the contrary, was strongly influenced by Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952) and that Dutchman is as much informed by Baraka’s worries about staking out an identity as an original African American writer as it is about his concerns with how to be an authentic African American man.
Sollors, Werner. Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones: The Quest for a “Popular Modernism.” New York: Columbia University Press, 1978. Asserts that Dutchman combines a realistic look at American society with the absurdist and surrealist traditions of European theater. Lula, although a negative force in the play, expresses many of the playwright’s own ideas in his own language.
Walker, Victor Leo, II. “Archetype and Masking in LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka’s Dutchman.” In Black Theatre: Ritual Performance in the African Diaspora, edited by Paul Carter Harrison, Victor Leo Walker II, and Gus Edwards. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002. Looks at the antirealist aspects of Baraka’s play and their function in the representation of racial identity.
Watts, Jerry Gafio. Amiri Baraka: The Politics and Art of a Black Intellectual. New York: New York University Press, 2001. Frank reappraisal of Baraka, focusing on the contradictions between his public and private personas and balancing his brilliance with the more derivative aspects of his work. Based on rereadings of other people’s interviews, rather than new interviews conducted by the author himself.