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Carolyn Nur Wistrand - Beauty in Black Performance: Plays for African-American Youth

The four plays in this book bring together aspects of American history and culture that dramatize the presence and contributions of Africans and African Americans in the shaping of the United States. Written for performance by junior and high school youth, the plays introduce students to The Middle Passage, The Antebellum South, Slave Revolts in 19th century America, Reconstruction & The Jim Crow Era, Lynching, Folktales of The Deep South, and The Harlem Renaissance. 

Included in this volume: Ida B. ‘n The Lynching Tree: A Record of Race History is based on the foremost African American female journalist of the 19th century, Miss Ida B. Wells. The play moves swiftly through major events in her life, from her birth in Holly Springs, Mississippi in 1862 to the Memphis lynchings in 1892 which resulted in her lifelong crusade against lynching and the Jim Crow laws in the Deep South. Let Thy Last Word Be Freedom: Denmark Vesey & The Insurrection of 1822 chronicles the life of famed abolitionist Denmark Vesey, a free man of color, who was put to death with thirty-two of his compatriots in Charleston, South Carolina in 1822 for planning an insurrection that would have led hundreds of slaves to freedom in Haiti. Mean Molly: An African Folktale of the Deep South is set in the swamplands of South Carolina in 1866. When Watah Mocasin goes fishing in a slave burial ground, the unsettled soul of Mean Molly torments the local people, who collectively discover their African roots as they work together to set her spirit free. Asante: Princess of Harlem follows the story of Ella Cinder, who shares the duties of scrubbing floors, with her two sisters in a depression era jazz club. The play combines African American culture with the fairy tale Cinderella, as Ella and her sisters are introduced to their royal heritage by their Ghanaian ancestors, who leave them with important life lessons on their true identity. 

An excellent supplemental reference, the plays in this collection are also suitable for high school English, drama and history classes. This volume provides excellent material for Youth Theatre, Black History Programs, Drama and Speech Competitions, and Cultural Celebration Events. The book is unique in its contribution to multicultural drama for youth, an area which presently has limited offerings that document the African American Experience.

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