By Harry Justin Elam; David Krasner
An anthology of severe writings that explores the intersections of race, theater, and function in America.
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Extra info for African-American performance and theater history : a critical reader
On stage, Cassy loses her confrontational desire for freedom and appears more a character of desperation than deﬁance. In the Aiken version, Cassy ﬁrst appears on the stage when she gives Tom water after his initial whipping by Legree. She seems so convincingly white that Tom mistakes her for the mistress, and she corrects him roughly: “Don’t call me missis. ”28 She then admonishes Tom to give up his battle against Legree and recounts her own record of disgrace at Legree’s hands. She has neither the majesty nor the suggestion of magical powers that Stowe’s Cassy manifests.
The mulatto ﬁgure is by her nature less ﬁxable; she holds in her body the union of the two races and the possibility of change. The tragic mulatto was tragic because, although she had the appearance of a white woman, she was tainted by her relation to her black mother. This taint also allowed her virtue to be questionable. The tragic mulatto occupied a liminal space neither white nor black with access neither 26 Social Protest and the Politics of Representation to full virtue nor its lack. The ability of a white woman to play this role without cosmetic enhancement underlined the tragic notion of her fate—to look white but to be black.
Thus, Aldridge’s big head was dismissed as a biological aberration. Other biological interpretations of race in the nineteenth century and even into the early twentieth century maintained that inherited gene pools determined race, that race was in the blood. 2. See Michael Omi and Howard Winant, Racial Formation in the United States, 2d ed. : Blackwell, 1993). Introduction 15 3. While Hansberry wrote the play Les Blancs, her former husband, Robert Nemiroff, completed it for the stage in 1969. Hansberry was extremely ill with cancer at the time.