Advertisement

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

  • David Krasner
Chapter
  • 73 Downloads

Abstract

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

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, tr. Constance Farrington (New York: Grove, 1968), 210.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Martin Delany, The Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States, Politically Considered (Philadelphia: Harper, 1852), 210.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    David Levering Lewis, W.E. B. Du Bois: A Biography of a Race (New York: Henry Holt, 1993), 461.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Arnold Rampersad, The Art and Imagination of W. E. B. Du Bois (New York: Schocken, 1976), 230.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    George M. Parker, “The Negroid Line in History,” A. M. E. Church Review 25 (October 1908), 28.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America, 1860–1880 (1935; reprint, New York: Atheneum, 1992), 727.Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    Du Bois, “The Drama Among Black Folk,” Crisis 12.4 (August 1916), 171.Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    Fredric J. Haskins, “The Gift of Ethiopia,” Crisis 11.2 (December 1915), 75.Google Scholar
  9. 13.
    Du Bois, Dusk of Dawn (1940; New Brunswick: Transaction, 1983), 272.Google Scholar
  10. 15.
    Du Bois, “Criteria of Negro Art,” Crisis 32.6 (October 1926), 296.Google Scholar
  11. 16.
    Burroughs, a drama student at Wilberforce and the Boston School of Expression, directed all four productions. See Samuel A. Hay, African American Theatre: An His-torical and Critical Analysis (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 26.
    David W Blight, “W E. B. Du Bois and the Struggle for American National Memory,” in History and Memory in African American Culture, ed. Geneviève Fabre and Robert O’Meally (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 46.Google Scholar
  13. 27.
    Anthony Appiah, “The Uncompleted Argument: Du Bois and the Illusion of Race,” Critical Inquiry 12 (Autumn 1985), 25.Google Scholar
  14. 28.
    Du Bois, “Can the Negro Serve the Drama?” Theatre Magazine 38 (July 1923), 68.Google Scholar
  15. 31.
    William Chauncy Langdon, “The Pageant-Grounds and Their Technical Requirements,” Bulletin of the American Pageantry Association 11 (1 December 1914), 1.Google Scholar
  16. 32.
    Steve Golin, “The Paterson Pageant: Success or Failure,” Socialist Review 13 (1983), 56.Google Scholar
  17. 35.
    Du Bois, “The Conservation of Races: Speech to the American Negro Academy, 1897,” African American Social and Political Thought, 1850–1920, ed. Howard Brotz (New Brunswick: Transaction, 1993), 487–88.Google Scholar
  18. 37.
    Linda Nochlin, “The Paterson Strike Pageant of 1913,” Art in America 52 (May-June 1974), 67.Google Scholar
  19. 40.
    Liah Greenfield, Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992), 3Google Scholar
  20. 41.
    Wilson Jeremiah Moses, The Golden Age of Black Nationalism, 1850–1925 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), 133.Google Scholar
  21. 42.
    Joel Williamson, “W. E. B. Du Bois as a Hegelian,” in What Was Freedom’s Price?, ed. David G. Sansing (Jackson, MI: University of Mississippi Press, 1978), 34.Google Scholar
  22. 44.
    Johann Gottfried von Herder, Outline of a Philosophy of the History of Man (1784–1791), quoted in Elie Kedourie, Nationalism (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993), 48.Google Scholar
  23. 45.
    Bernard W Bell, The Folk Roots of Contemporary Afro-American Poetry (Detroit: Broadside, 1974), 21.Google Scholar
  24. 46.
    Du Bois, The Negro (1915; London: Oxford University Press, 1970), 9.Google Scholar
  25. 49.
    J. Mutero Chirenje, Ethiopianism and Afro-Americans in Southern Africa, 1883–1916 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1987), 1.Google Scholar
  26. 50.
    F Nnabuenyi Ugonna, “Introduction,” Ethiopia Unbound: Studies in Race Emancipation, ed. J. E. Casely Hayford (London: F Case, 1969), xxiv.Google Scholar
  27. 51.
    B. F Lee, “Selection, Environment and the Negro’s Future,” A M. E. Church Review 20 (1904), 389.Google Scholar
  28. 52.
    Edmund J. Keller, Revolutionary Ethiopia: From Empire to People’s Republic (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), 34.Google Scholar
  29. 53.
    See, for instance, Clarence G. Contee, “The Emergence of Du Bois as an African Nationalist,” Journal of Negro History 54 (1969), 48–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 55.
    Martin Delany, Principal of Ethnology: The Origins of Race and Color (Philadelphia: Harper, 1879), 72.Google Scholar
  31. 56.
    Richard Powell, Black Art and Culture in the Twentieth Century (London: Thames and Hudson, 1997), 36.Google Scholar
  32. 67.
    For a discussion on Du Bois’s theories based on Franz Boas’s lectures in 1906 on the origins of iron smelting, see Sterling Stuckey, Going Through the Storm: The Influence of African American Art in History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 76.
    Du Bois, “The Conservation of Races: Speech to the American Negro Academy (1897),” quoted in African American Social and Political Thought, 1850–1920, ed. Howard Brotz (New Brunswick: Transaction, 1993), 491.Google Scholar
  34. 77.
    Sterling Stuckey, Slave Culture: Nationalist Theory and the Foundations of Black America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 276.Google Scholar
  35. 79.
    Quoted in Julio Finn, Voices of Négritude (London: Quartet, 1988], 58.Google Scholar
  36. 80.
    Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, tr. Constance Farrington (New York: Grove Press, 1968), 213.Google Scholar
  37. 81.
    Wole Soyinka, Myth, Literature and the African World (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni-versity Press, 1976), 129Google Scholar
  38. 83.
    Edward W Said, Culture and Imperialism (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), 226.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Krasner 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Krasner

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations