There’s nothing true about this play that I didn’t say about the others. It’s well-written and the language is so perfectly captured I can hear it being said as I read. And like the other plays, something I didn’t mention, because it was originally cast with a couple of well-known actors, I can even imagine it being performed with specific faces and specific voices.
This is the earliest, by chronology, of August Wilson’s Century Cycle, taking place in 1904. Like I mentioned in the Faulkner novels, the spectre of the Civil War permeates this play like almost none of the others (except Joe Turner’s Come and Gone) and the character are at most one generation removed from Emancipation and still in the midst of the Great Migration.
This is a story told many times over the 20th century, but it’s one that sinks when it’s told because of how much in implicates whiteness. The destruction of black-only spaces has a real and present history in the landscape of American history. And even though whiteness is to blame for it, whiteness, being wily, usually escapes responsibility. Given how the news, the state, and plenty of people have for centuries implicated every Black, Brown, Asian, and now Muslim persons for the act of individuals, the winnowing down of every act of racial terror, racial jealousy, and racial destruction committed by whiteness, even directly in the name of the law to the singular act of singular people is infuriating.
I live in a city where the formerly strong “Black Wall St of the South,” where the first black-owned bank in the US was founded, was split in several pieces by multiple highways, thus ending that economic self-sufficiency. That’s policy based terrorism. But in places like Oklahoma or Ohio, where the on-book violence of Jim Crow is not the law, have histories similar to this.
So placing this play in Pittsburgh, where again the false safety of the North looms, speaks to this specific history of violence.