What is the Black Theatre Movement or Black Arts Movement?

Black theatre movement is an artistic and dramatic movement that included drama which, initially, was concerned with the consciousness and identity of black Americans, and a kind of movement which has had considerable influence outside America and which has in turn been affected by the Black Power and the Civil Rights movements.

During the 1960s the black theatre movement became progressively more radical and there was an increasing tendency among black playwrights to dissociate themselves from the white American theatre and put on performances for black audiences only. A kind of side effect has been the use of all-black casts for plays by Shakespeare and other dramatists, including Thomas Beckett (Waiting for Godot, for instance). The movement had some influence in England, for example at the Dark and Light Theatre in Brixton, London.

The first major work by a black dramatist is generally reckoned to be James Brown’s King Shotaway (1823), William Wells Brown’s The Escape; or, A Leap for Freedom (1858), Angelina W. Grimké’s Rachel (1916), Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun (1959),  Other black playwrights of this movement include James Baldwin, Le Roi Jones (who changed his name to Amamu Amiri Baraka) and Ed Bullins. West African dramatists – especially Wole Soyinka – have also made a contribution, as has Aimé Césaire, the Martinique-born writer.

Also read; Discuss Negritude

Also read; African American studies or Black studies