Indiana State University
Social Rituals and the Verbal Art of Zora Neale Hurston by Lynda Marion Hill Review by: Australia Tarver
African American Review, Vol. 33, No. 2 (Summer, 1999), pp. 362-365 Published by: Indiana State University
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gious and folk roots of African American culture. Indeed the only unifying factors of these plays are that each was written by an African American playwright during the period between the two world wars and that none is generally recognized as part of the core of African American literature. Despite the unevenness of the selections, the editors have done a good job of bringing an interesting collection of African American plays back to our attention. Other aspects of this book are less successful. The introductions that precede each playwright's work are uneven, repetitive at times, and occasionally prone to factual error. The most glaring mistake has Langston Hughes born in St. Louis (rather than Joplin, Missouri) and growing up in Cleveland, ignoring the important childhood years he spent in Lawrence and Topeka, Kansas, and his introduction to the theater and to black music in Kansas City. There are other distracting errors. For example, one of Hughes's plays, The Em-FuehrerJones, is mistakenly dated 1920 in the Table of Contents. Finally, there are aspects of this book that simply do not fit together well or contribute to the coherence of the whole. Central to this is the failure of the volume's introduction adequately to link many of the plays and playwrights to the Harlem Renaissance. The mere fact that an African American produced literature between 1920 and 1940 does not connect that person or that literature to the Harlem Renaissance. Fewer than half of the playwrights included in this book had significant ties to Harlem or the Harlem Renaissance; even the plays by Langston Hughes in this volume are more accurately connected to the post-Renaissance phase of his career. In fact, six of the sixteen plays included in this collection were written in 1938 or 1940after the Harlem Renaissance had faded. Also the content of the appendix is puzzling. All twenty items were produced during the period 1919-1928, but the first eight have little or no direct relationship to African American drama. Furthermore, there is no clear explanation of the purpose of the appendix or the relation of its contents to the rest of the book.
These problems are not fatal errors, and they certainly do not detract from the principal value of this volume. Hatch and Hamalian deserve our praise for the work that they have done in unearthing these plays and bringing them to our attention. However, they might have served their our cause better had they selected a different title for the book, and not tried to link it so closely to the Harlem Renaissance.
n her 1995study of the philosophy and politics of
Zora Neale Hurston, Every Tub Must Sit on Its
Own Bottom, Deborah Plant maintains that Hurston's
intellectual independence and autonomy shaped her
artistry, individuality, and politics. Plant argues that,
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