Performance, Civil Rights, and the Unfinished Project of Emancipation
Performance and American Cultures
Published by: NYU Press
320 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 mm, 12 b/w illustrations
- ISBN: 9781479806843
- Published: March 2022
A bold rethinking of the Civil Rights Movement through the lens of Black theater
“Freedom, Now!” This rallying cry became the most iconic phrase of the Civil Rights Movement, challenging the persistent command that Black people wait—in the holds of slave ships and on auction blocks, in segregated bus stops and schoolyards—for their long-deferred liberation.
In Black Patience, Julius B. Fleming Jr. argues that, during the Civil Rights Movement, Black artists and activists used theater to energize this radical refusal to wait. Participating in a vibrant culture of embodied political performance that ranged from marches and sit-ins to jail-ins and speeches, these artists turned to theater to unsettle a violent racial project that Fleming refers to as “Black patience.” Inviting the likes of James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, Alice Childress, Douglas Turner Ward, Duke Ellington, and Oscar Brown Jr. to the stage, Black Patience illuminates how Black artists and activists of the Civil Rights era used theater to expose, critique, and repurpose structures of white supremacy. In this bold rethinking of the Civil Rights Movement, Fleming contends that Black theatrical performance was a vital technology of civil rights activism, and a crucial site of Black artistic and cultural production.
Demonstrates how temporality as an analytic helps us understand the dynamics of antiblack racism within a political economy of black subjugation. By uncovering little-known plays or unexpected black spaces where plays were produced, Julius Fleming expands the Civil Rights Movement’s literary canon and indexes the multiple registers of ‘patience’ mobilized by blacks and whites within white supremacy and black resistance. Beautifully written and meticulously researched, Black Patience is a tour de force. ~E. Patrick Johnson, author of Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women
Offers crucial insight into debates about black political action by carefully and convincingly locating progress in the ephemerality of the now. Adding a distinctive and powerful addition to the history and critical understanding of the Civil Rights Movement, Julius Fleming details the impact of direct action in the present to establish the importance of black theatre to black freedom. ~Soyica Diggs Colbert, Georgetown University