The Global Energy of Lorraine Hansberry

By R. Baxter Miller.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Les Blancs (1970), produced by Robert Nemiroff, on November 15 of the year, inquires into a complex explosiveness of nations. Because of the American tendency to misrepresent Hansberry as a one-play dramatist of the American dream, her global range is often forgotten. Of the major African American playwrights to emerge during the last half of the Twentieth Century, her radical experimentation into the staged rituals of Africa certainly sets her works apart. According to both the director of the Les Blancs (Lesson 64) and the writer Alex Haley (279), she sets the tone for the stage production of African experience initially on the continent and subsequently in the Americas. In the underlying structure of world history, the liberationist patterns in the Kenya of the fifties and the United States of the sixties read the same. Nearly all of her major work enacts rituals of liberation. As in Raisin (1959) an African American family may face an unseen mob that actually appears in the now-excised part of her original manuscript. As in Les Blancs (1970) the American family in Raisin becomes transformed into the African family at a watershed moment in Kenyan history. Except for location and nation, the two families are symbolically the same. What is less obvious from reading a chronological sequence of Hansberry’s works is that the plots of the two plays take place at the opposite ends of the nineteen fifties. Indeed, the African and American moments become mirroring images of each other within an international continuum of racial deliverance.

Keywords: Africa, Americas, Kenya, Liberation, Energy

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp.55-62. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 737.317KB).

Dr. R. Baxter Miller

Professor of English and African American Studies, Franklin College, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA

R. Baxter Miller (Ph.D., Brown 1974), during the last nineteen years, as today, is Professor of English and African American Studies at the University of Georgia. His ten books include the internationally acclaimed Black American Literature and Humanism (Kentucky 1981), for which he wrote the historical introduction and final essay, and The Art and Imagination of Langston Hughes (1989; Kentucky, paperback 2006), which won the American Book Award for 1991. Much of his published and revised opus appears as The Artistry of Memory (Mellen 2008). His Reference Guide to Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks (G. K. Hall, 1978) is a standard source, and his Black American Poets between Worlds, 1940-1960 (Tennessee 1986) an academic bestseller. Miller is one of the five co-authors and co-editors who completed the Riverside edition, Call and Response: African American Tradition in Literature (Houghton Mifflin, 1998). The editor of “The Short Stories,” Collected Works of Langston Hughes 15 (University of Missouri Press 2002), he was the invited contributor of the biography in the Historical Guide of Langston Hughes (Oxford 2004). The author of scores of chapters, articles, review-essays, and reviews in scholarly journals, he has written a commissioned essay for National Biography (Oxford) and a foreword for classic reprints such as Fire in the Flint by Walter White (Georgia 1995), along with chapter nineteen for American Literary Scholarship (Duke). His new book “On the Ruins of Modernity: New Chicago Renaissance from Wright to Fair,” will be published in 2011by Common Ground at the University of Illinois Research Park. Meanwhile, his new edition, Critical Insights: Langston Hughes, will be published in 2012 by Salem Press, the print division of EBSCO.


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