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The Ethiopian Art Theatre

  • Addell Austin Anderson
Extract

The Ethiopian Art Theatre was founded in response to the racial strife of early twentieth-century Chicago. From 1910 to 1920, the migration of Southern blacks to Chicago more than doubled the black population from 44,103 to 109,458. White citizens felt threatened by the influx, fearing unemployment and epidemics in crime and health. Racial tensions increased from 1917 to 1919 as white gangs openly assaulted blacks. So-called “neighborhood improvement societies” bombed black homes and realty offices suspected of attempting to break up white residential areas. The Chicago Association of Commerce and the Chicago Tribune encouraged blacks to return to the South.

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1 Spear, Alan, Black Chicago: The Making of a Negro Ghetto (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967), 12.

2 Spear, 216.

3 For a discussion of black life in Chicago during this period, besides Spear see Drake, St. Clair and Clayton, Horace, Black Metropolis (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Co., 1945).

4 Flory, Julia, The Cleveland Play House (Cleveland: Press of Western Reserve University, 1965), 66.

5 Flory, 67.

6 Scott, Esther Fulks, “Negroes As Actors in Serious Plays,” Opportunity, April 1923, 2023. Curiously, no article could be found discussing the initiation of the organization in the Chicago Defender, although the wife of the newspaper's publisher and editor served on the Association's Board.

7 Belcher, Fannin S. Jr., “The Place of the Negro in the Evolution of the American Theatre, 1767–1940,” diss., Yale University, 1945, 389.

8 Foreword, The Chip Woman's Fortune/Salome Program, reprinted in Belcher, between 388 and 389.

9 Sampson, Henry, Blacks in Blackface (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1980), 126.

10 For excerpts of the reviews, see Scott, 20–23.

11 Butler, Sheppard, “Oscar Wilde at Thirty-first and Indiana,” Chicago Tribune, 4 February 1923, 1.

12 Langston, Tony, “Salome A Sensation at the Avenue,” Chicago Defender, 3 February 1923, 8.

13 “Notables, White and Colored, Mingle at New Theatre Opening,” New York Age, 10 February 1923, 6.

14 Scott, 23.

15 Langston, , “Players in New Show at Avenue,” Chicago Defender, 3 March 1923, 6; and Follies of Scapin Continues at Avenue,” Chicago Defender, 24 February 1923, 6.

16 Scott, 22.

17 Willis Richardson, interview, Hatch-Billops Oral History Collection, Cohen Library, New York, 5 March 1972.

18 Raymond O'Neil, letter, Crisis, April 1923, 251.

19 Scott, 20–23.

20 Scott, 21.

21Salome Hits,” Chicago Defender, 28 April 1923, p. 7.

22 Richardson, , “The Negro Audience,” Opportunity, April 1925, 123.

23 Salome advertisement, New York Age, 21 April 1923, 6.

24 Clark, William E., “Harlem Audiences Spoil Strong Drama Given By Chicago Colored Players,” New York Age, 28 April 1923, 6.

25 Richardson, interview.

26 Clark, , “Negro Press Refused To Be Segregated at Salome,” New York Age, 12 May 1923, 6.

27 Corbin, John, “Ethiopians Act Salome,” New York Times, 8 May 1923, 22.

28 Corbin, , “Jewels in Ethiope's Ear,” New York Times, 20 May 1923, 1.

29 “Off Broadway,” Chicago Defender, 2 June 1923, 8.

31 Director of Salome Held,” New York Times, 11 June 1923, 16.

32 “O'Neil Exonerated,” Chicago Defender, 7 July 1923, 8.

33 Du Bois, W. E. B., “The Ethiopian Art Theatre,” Crisis, July 1923, 103.

34 Bois, Du, “Can the Negro Serve the Drama?,” Theatre Magazine, July 1923, 68.

35 O'Neil, , “The Negro in Dramatic Art,” Crisis, February 1924, 155–57.

36 Jackson, J.A., “Four New Comedies Reach New York,” Afro-American, 7 March 1924, 13.

37 Clark, , “Gold Front Stores Is Big Disappointment To Audience of Dramatic Lovers,” New York Age, 8 March 1924, 6.

38 Lewis, Theophilus, “At the Lafayette,” Messenger, April 1924, 109.

39 Clark, , “Going White, By Flournoy Miller, A Drama of Merit,” New York Age, 15 March 1924, 6; and Lewis, 109.

40 Kellner, Bruce, The Harlem Renaissance: A Historical Dictionary for the Era (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1984), 289290.

41 Richardson, interview.

* Addell Austin Anderson is Assistant Professor in Theatre at Wayne State University.

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Theatre Survey
  • ISSN: 0040-5574
  • EISSN: 1475-4533
  • URL: /core/journals/theatre-survey
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