Spring 2024

Reclamation: Restoring the Black Legacy in American Theater

Listed in: Black Studies, as BLST-231  |  Theater and Dance, as THDA-231


Raffeal A. Sears (Section 01)


(Offered as THDA 231 and BLST 231) Did you know that James Hewlett, a 19th-century Black actor, was among the first to perform solo plays? Yet, despite its rich two-century-old history, Black American Theater has consistently been overlooked and excluded from the annals of American theater.  With "Reclamation," we will embark on an exciting journey to excavate the legacy of Black American theater pioneers and their incredible impact on contemporary theater. We will use genealogy as our guide, digging deep into various historical resources like census reports, newspapers, birth and death records, and more.

The course will serve as a collaborative community of learners, coming together to restore and preserve the stories of Black theater pioneers in American history. We plan to conduct research at the Amherst College Archives and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City. We will analyze our findings by asking: How did American theater counter Black stereotypes? Is white American theater receptive to accountability? Why is there a lack of Black representation in theater audiences?

We will explore key moments in Black American theater history, including the founding of the African Grove Theater in 1821, the revolutionary legacy of Ira Aldridge, and the beautiful resistance of Alice Childress.  We will also examine significant plays, films, books, and artists, such as William Wells Brown, August Wilson, and Dominique Morisseau. Limited to 22 students. Spring semester. Professor Sears.

How to handle overenrollment: Roster managed for balance of class years and interests; preference to majors, first-years and sophomores

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Reading assignments, video viewing assignments, class discussion, independent research, academic writing, and presentations.

BLST 231 - LEC

Section 01
M 12:30 PM - 1:50 PM WEBS 220
W 12:30 PM - 1:50 PM WEBS 220


2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Fall 2019, Spring 2023, Spring 2024

THDA 231/ BLST 231: Reclamation: Restoring the Black Legacy in American Theater

Submitted by Raffeal A. Sears on Thursday, 11/16/2023, at 9:31 AM