Cover image for A beautiful pageant : African American theatre, drama, and performance in the Harlem Renaissance, 1910-1927
A beautiful pageant : African American theatre, drama, and performance in the Harlem Renaissance, 1910-1927
Krasner, David, 1952-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Palgrave Macmillan, [2002]

Physical Description:
xii, 370 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
African American performance in the Harlem renaissance -- Men in black and white: race and masculinity in the heavyweight title fight of 1910 -- Exoticism, dance, and racial myths: modern dance and the class divide in the choreography of Aida Overton Walker and Ethel Waters -- "The pageant is the thing": black nationalism and The star of Ethiopia -- Walter Benjamin and the lynching play: mourning and allegory in Angelina Weld Grimké's Rachel -- Migration, fragmentation, and identity: Zora Neale Hurston's Color struck and the geography of the Harlem renaissance -- The wages of culture: Alain Locke and the folk dramas of Georgia Douglas Johnson and Willis Richardson -- "In the whirlwind and the storm": Marcus Garvey and the performance of black nationalism -- Whose role is it, anyway?: Charles Gilpin and the Harlem renaissance -- "What constitutes a race drama and how may we know it when we find it?": the little theatre movement and the black public sphere -- Shuffle along and the quest for nostalgia: black musicals of the 1920s -- Conclusion: the end of "butter side up".
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS338.N4 K73 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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The Harlem Renaissance was an unprecedented period of vitality in the American Arts. Defined as the years between 1910 and 1927, it was the time when Harlem came alive with theater, drama, sports, dance and politics. Looking at events as diverse as the prizefight between Jack Johnson and Jim 'White Hope' Jeffries, the choreography of Aida Walker and Ethel Waters, the writing of Zora Neale Hurston and the musicals of the period, Krasner paints a vibrant portrait of those years. This was the time when the residents of northern Manhattan were leading their downtown counterparts at the vanguard of artistic ferment while at the same time playing a pivotal role in the evolution of Black nationalism. This is a thrilling piece of work by an author who has been working towards this major opus for years now. It will become a classic that will stay on the American history and theater shelves for years to come.

Author Notes

David Krasner is Director of Undergraduate Theater Studies at Yale University.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

This densely detailed, consistently readable account of the Harlem Renaissance focuses on the poets and novelists and "performance" in general, which for Krasner includes "any live act (not film) created for a public audience." After looking with fresh intensity at sport, dance, pageantry and parade as theater, Krasner (who directs Yale's undergraduate theater studies program) turns to more conventional but little-known dramas, including Angelina Weld Grimk's Rachel and Zora Neale Hurston's Color Struck, along with plays by Georgia Douglas Johnson and Willis Richardson. The book concludes with a section on the events of the late 1910s to 1927 a span encompassing Marcus Garvey's historic parade, a reconsideration of Charles Gilpin's performance in Emperor Jones, an account of the rise of the Black Little Theater Movement and a treatment of the musical Shuffle Along, with a "focus on librettos, performers and audiences rather than music per se." Krasner takes readers to the scene of the performance, giving, for example, a scene-by-scene rendition of DuBois's pageant, The Star of Ethiopia, "the first mass assembly of black people for the purpose of self-determination and cultural pride." Succinct and neatly incorporated background sketches (e.g., the pageant movement and the Mammy figure), along with intelligible and accessible references to theorists (e.g., Alain Locke and Walter Benjamin), enrich the finer details. Krasner's aim is far broader than a period history of theater; he deftly concentrates on "specific events in order to sketch a larger picture" and alter people's way of thinking about the Harlem Renaissance. Photos. (Oct. 11) Forecast: Students of theater and Af-Am studies will be especially drawn to and stimulated by this book; it will undoubtedly become a supplementary or even central text in some theater courses. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This examination of black nationalism in the theater focuses on lesser-known performers and works, like choreographer Aida Overton Walker and the pageant The Star of Ethiopia. Krasner paints a lively picture of the era, citing such choice events as Jack Johnson's prizefight and Shuffle Along, the most popular musical of the time. (LJ 10/1/02) (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Successor to Krasner's award-winning Resistance, Parody, and Double Consciousness in African American Theatre, 1895-1910 (CH, Jul'99), this study identifies the period of the Harlem Renaissance as 1910-27 (others suggest the timeframe as the early 1920s to the early 1930s). Krasner's focus on drama and performance begins, after a defining opening chapter, with the 1910 Johnson and Jeffries prizefight and concludes with the musical Shuffle Along (seen first in 1921) and its offshoots and personalities. Rather than provide a survey of events between these two landmarks, Krasner (Yale Univ.) offers essays with extensive theoretical underpinning on specific moments and individuals that characterize "a time of paradoxes, with efforts demonstrating varying and sometimes startling successes." These--often affected by binaries (such as the philosophical differences of Alain Locke and W.E.B. DuBois)--include dancers Aida Overton Walker and Ethel Waters; Marcus Garvey parades and rhetoric; plays of Zora Neale Hurston and Angelina Weld Grimke (among others); Charles Gilpin's contradictory career, especially in The Emperor Jones; and The Star of Ethiopia pageants. Krasner's arguments are persuasive and engaging. Two caveats: the choice and size of font make the book difficult to read; the omission of a bibliography, despite extensive notes, is regrettable. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty. D. B. Wilmeth Brown University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgementsp. xi
Chapter 1 African American Performance in the Harlem Renaissancep. 1
Part I 1910-1918
Chapter 2 Men in Black and White: Race and Masculinity in the Heavyweight Title Fight of 1910p. 17
Chapter 3 Exoticism, Dance, and Racial Myths: Modern Dance and the Class Divide in the Choreography of Aida Overton Walker and Ethel Watersp. 55
Chapter 4 "The Pageant Is the Thing": Black Nationalism and The Star of Ethiopiap. 81
Part II Black Drama
Chapter 5 Walter Benjamin and the Lynching Play: Mourning and Allegory in Angelina Weld Grimke's Rachelp. 97
Chapter 6 Migration, Fragmentation, and Identity: Zora Neale Hurston's Color Struck and the Geography of the Harlem Renaissancep. 113
Chapter 7 The Wages of Culture: Alain Locke and the Folk Dramas of Georgia Douglas Johnson and Willis Richardsonp. 131
Part III 1918-1927
Chapter 8 "In the Whirlwind and the Storm": Marcus Garvey and the Performance of Black Nationalismp. 167
Chapter 9 Whose Role Is It, Anyway?: Charles Gilpin and the Harlem Renaissancep. 189
Chapter 10 "What Constitutes a Race Drama and How May We Know It When We Find It?": The Little Theatre Movement and the Black Public Spherep. 207
Chapter 11 Shuffle Along and the Quest for Nostalgia: Black Musicals of the 1920sp. 239
Chapter 12 Conclusion: The End of "Butter Side Up"p. 289
Notesp. 293
Indexp. 357