The Lack of Realism and the Power of Drama in Ishmael Reed's 'The C Above the C Above High C'

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The lack of realism and the power of drama in Ishmael Reed's The C Above the C Above High C Ishmael Reed's The C Above the C Above High C is ostensibly a history play, documenting the fight of trumpet player Louis Armstrong for civil rights during the 1950s and Armstrong's attempt to gain an audience with President Dwight D. Eisenhower to act as an advocate for his people. The play is based upon a historical incident, in which Armstrong spoke with the President personally, demanding that he take a stand to defend the rights of black children seeking an equal education in Little Rock, Arkansas. However, the exact details of the meeting remain unknown to history. Reed is thus allowed to take considerable poetic license in his depiction of both men, and of the history surrounding the meeting in general. Rather than a documentary, Reed attempts to paint an emotional portrait of Armstrong's complex psychology. Armstrong was a dedicated musician who was a consummate perfectionist. He was beloved by both whites and African-Americans but his political views alienated some of his white fans. Reed explicitly dramatizes this in the first scene of the play in which Armstrong says: "These little school children in Little Rock are gettin' bricks thrown at them. Just for trying to go to school. That little girl, Elizabeth, was attacked by that mob of hyenas. These kids are being spat upon. And the only thing on my mind is whether I can hit a higher C on my trumpet than before."

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