Hansi Lo Wang, NPR
NEW YORK (NPR.com) — An obscure but riveting genre of theater is being revived in New York City.
They’re called “anti-lynching plays.” Most were written by black playwrights during the early 1900s to show how lynchings devastated African-American families.
Inspired by the recent deaths of unarmed black men by police, a theater company in Brooklyn, N.Y., is staging a series of new readings of these plays, including Georgia Douglas Johnson’s Blue-Eyed Black Boy.
“It’s not a play where we re-enact a lynching. The focus is not the gory details,” says Wi-Moto Nyoka, an actress featured in the readings. “This is a human take on our shared history.”
Lynchings were a common part of Southern life when these one-act plays were written. Magazines for the black community often published them so they could be performed in churches and schools or read aloud in homes, according to Koritha Mitchell, an English literature professor at Ohio State University who wrote about the plays in Living with Lynching.