Black Drama


NOTE: a newer version of this product, Black Drama: Second Edition, is available here:

Black Drama contains the full text of 1,200 plays written from the mid-1800s to the present by more than 100 playwrights from North America, English-speaking Africa, the Caribbean, and other African diaspora countries. Many of the works are rare, hard-to-find, or out of print. James Vernon Hatch, the playwright, historian, and curator of the landmark Hatch-Billops Collection of black drama, is the project’s editorial advisor. More than a quarter of the collection will consists of previously unpublished plays by writers such as Langston Hughes, Ed Bullins, Willis Richardson, Femi Euba, Amiri Baraka, Randolph Edmonds, Zora Neale Hurston, and many others.

Each play is extensively and deeply indexed, allowing both keyword and multi-fielded searching. The plays are accompanied by reference materials, significant ancillary information, a rich performance database, and images. The result is an exceptionally deep and unified collection that illustrates the many purposes that black theater has served: to give testimony to the ancient foundations of black culture; to protest injustices; to project emerging images of the new Black; and to give voice to the many and varied expressions of black creativity.

The database covers key writings of the Harlem Renaissance, works performed for the Federal Theatre Project, and plays by critically acclaimed dramatists of the 1940s. The collection includes musical comedies, domestic dramas, folk dramas, history plays, anti-slavery plays, one-act plays, and other works. Many were published in a wide range of magazines and anthologies, others have never before been published or performed.

Students and scholars will have immediate access to plays addressing a wide range of struggles and triumphs, including migration to Northern cities, mothers’ keeping families together, exploitation by white land owners, interracial unity, racial violence, civil rights activism, and the black war hero.

Included are the plays of Langston Hughes, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Zora Neale Hurston, Ira Aldridge, Shirley Graham, W.E.B. DuBois, William Wells Brown, Owen Dodson, Joseph Seamon Cotter, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Randolph Edmonds, Angelina Weld Grimke, Georgia Douglas Johnson, May Miller, Willis Richardson, Eulalie Spence, and others.

In addition, the collection covers the Black Arts movement of the sixties and seventies and works performed by the Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School (BARTS), The Negro Ensemble Company, and other companies.

The plays explore themes including civil rights, desegregation, and a wide range of ideologies – integrationist and separatist, revolutionary and nationalist. While the collection is strong in social and political drama, it also covers domestic drama and satires.

The collection includes works by Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), Ed Bullins, Phillip Hayes Dean, Ted Shine, Aishah Rahman, Paul Carter Harrison, James Baldwin, Rita Dove, Charles Fuller, Ron Milner, Sonia Sanchez, Melvin Van Peebles, Joseph Walker, Richard Wesley, and many others. Dozens of never-before-published works are included.

This collection also brings together a wide collection of plays from Ghana, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, the West Indies, the United Kingdom, and other parts of the world. It includes works by writers such as David Edgecombe, Una Marson, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Jimmi Makotsi, Femi Osofisan, Yulisa Amadu Maddy, Duro Lapido, ‘Zulu Sofola, H.I.E Dhlomo, Gus Edwards, Fatima Dike, Alan Paton, Ama Ata Aidoo, Francis D. Imbuga, Joe Coleman de Graft, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Richard Moore Rive, and many others. Dozens of plays in the collection have never been published before. Other works are long out-of-print or hard-to-find.

The plays deal with the social and political ills stemming from colonialism, slavery, and apartheid; the struggle for independence; African history; and neo-colonialism. Of particular interest is material written as “township theatre” in South Africa under apartheid and the development of black grassroots urban theatre. White Africans are included when they are key writers whose works address important black issues.



Text Collection
mid-1800s to present
Stable URL
Authorized UM users (+ guests in UM Libraries)Authorized UM users (+ guests in UM Libraries)
Questions about this resource? Contact Ask a Librarian