“The Pageant Is the Thing”: Black Nationalism and The Star of Ethiopia

  • David Krasner


W. E. B. Du Bois’s production of the pageant The Star of Ethiopia opened at the 12th Regiment Armory in New York on 22 October 1913 (see figure 9).3 It was not without controversy, for it raised significant issues concerning the portrayal of African Americans during a period of heightened racism and its antithesis, Black Nationalism, in the United States. Subsequent productions continued to portray African American history quite differently than it had been depicted by white ethnologists, novelists, and playwrights. The Star of Ethiopia stood in stark contrast to the depictions one finds, for example, in Thomas Dixon’s The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan (1905), and later, in D. W. Griffith’s film based on Dixon’s book, Birth of a Nation (1915). In the film, according to Du Bois, the black man was portrayed as a “fool, a vicious rapist, a venal and unscrupulous politician or a faithful but doddering idiot.”4


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© David Krasner 2002

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  • David Krasner

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