Hickok Hall


Reviving the Plays of Early 20th Century Black Women Playwrights

Deanna L. Downes, Assistant Professor of Theatre
December 6

Deanna Downes

This special one-session presentation will introduce participants to the lives and works of less-well-known African American women playwrights of the early 20th century, including Alice Dunbar Nelson and Mary Powell Burrill. Their works addressed topics — including war, racial and gender inequality, reproductive rights and social justice — of critical importance in their time as well as in ours. Through their plays, black women were able to bring to life portrayals of black history and experience missing from the dominant culture’s accounts. In this forum, Assistant Professor of Theatre Deanna L. Downes will provide an overview of the plays and playwrights and guide participants through a reading of one of the works. As they did a century ago, the plays continue to offer ways for audiences to more fully understand black experiences and American history and to discuss issues of race, gender and social justice. Through learning about the playwrights and reading their work aloud, modern-day audiences can practice responses to social injustice, review strategies from the past and learn about black experiences still too often missing from history books.