By Kyle Fraser
Beyond Blackface: African Americans and the Creation of American Popular Culture, 1890-1930: its cover features a color print of a poster promoting Haiti, the Federal Theater Project’s (FTP)’celebration of the anticolonial revolution’. The old adage warns against judging books by their covers.
Fine. But in this post-palpable atmosphere of digitized letters, in which read-only text files are unzipped and consumed with increasing regularity, a book cover, when available, shouldn’t go overlooked either. Produced by the FTP’s Harlem Unit in 1938, Haiti, a story of black empowerment revived by William (no Burghardt) Du Bois enjoyed a 103-show run at the storied Lafayette Theater, (just two years after a 20-year old Orson Welles-directed version of ‘Macbeth’—set in Haiti and with an all-black cast—opened to such fervor that 7thavenue had to be shut down for ten blocks in each direction of the theater) selling ‘some 74,000 tickets’ and prompting a theater reviewer to declare that Harlem had ‘stole [n] some of Broadway’s thunder’ in Time’s March issue that year. “Theatre: New Plays in Manhattan.” Time Magazine 14March 1938. Print. Continue reading