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Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 400

Two Trains Running was produced contemporaneously with a resurgence of interest in black power, marked perhaps most notably by Spike Lee’s 1992 film Malcolm X. Watch Lee’s film and research other treatments of the black power movement during the 1990s, and then deliver a class presentation analyzing why and how the movement was portrayed during the decade. How and why did such treatments tend to differ from historical reality? Why might they have been popular? What might they reflect about African American culture in the 1990s? How does Wilson’s play compare to them?

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Wilson is known for his sensitivity to African American oral culture, including music. Listen to influential African American music of the 1960s, including bebop jazz musicians such as John Coltrane and black popular singers such as Aretha Franklin, and research the context and political associations of the music you have heard. Then, write a descriptive essay in which you speculate about how such music influenced the dialogue and rhythms of Two Trains Running. Which musical influences were most important to Wilson and why? Why might he have chosen Franklin’s “Take a Look” as a backdrop to the love scene between Risa and Sterling? How might live or recorded music be used to various effects in productions of the play?

Two Trains Running seems divided in its articulation of theories of personal freedom and social determination. Memphis declares that he is and always has been free, and no one can take this freedom away from him, but Holloway...

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