Terence Afer: The First Black Playwright

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Black theater is as old as the first tribes in Africa who would dance with wooden masks to represent gods or legends (Kerr, p3). The playwrights of this time were the Griots, who were known as the keepers of history in African tribes and mark the beginning of African literary tradition (Freeman.) But when does the development of black playwright actually take off? The first black playwright in history is Terence Afer, who was born around 159 BC (Arnott). He was taken to Rome as a slave, and because he impressed his master, was given a liberal education and as much freedom as a slave could have. Terence managed to produce six plays in his life which were the base for modern comedy of manners (Arnott). Terence’s literary career was …show more content…

His first thoughts of rebellion came when he had to listen to his mother get whipped and could do nothing for her. Then he ran away after a detestable man by the name of Major Freeland had hired him from his master and mistreated him severely, but he didn’t make it far before he was recaptured and punished himself (Simkin). After that the editor of The St. Louis Times, Elijah P. Lovejoy hired William (Simkin). This set in place the blocks to which William’s ability to write for a purpose began. His freedom came in 1834, when he ran away to Ohio and was cared for by a Quaker named Wells Brown (Simkin). He took on the name of his rescuer and went from slave to man. Brown spent his next few years of life helping in the Underground Railroad and writing novels, historical novels, and his life down (Simkin). The first one, the play that is marked as the very first African American play produced was The Drama of King Shotaway (Penumbra). This played to mixed audiences for a year in The African Grove Theater in New York (Penumbra). This was the first theater, founded by William Henry Brown and James Hewlett, to take African American perspective plays and produce them onstage (Penumbra). Brown and Hewlett did extensive research into the African arts that influenced most plays at the time. They even traveled to the Caribbean where slave plantations were extensive and the slaves

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