The Black Arts Movement and the politics of emancipation.
 – By Elias Rodriques
Excerpt from The Nation – January 10, 2022

In the 1960s, the Free Southern Theater, an organization founded by a group of activists with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), traveled to a church in a predominantly Black, rural corner of Mississippi. There they staged Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, an absurdist drama about characters conversing as they wait for someone who never arrives. The play may have seemed like a strange choice—who would imagine that Beckett might connect with rural Black Americans in the throes of the civil rights movement?—but it found at least one admirer in civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer. “I guess we know something about waiting, don’t we?” Hamer said from the audience.

Everyone agreed, and as they discussed the play, the conversation eventually turned to slavery and prisons. “We had this incredible discussion with people who barely had a sixth-grade education,” Denise Nicholas, an actress in the Free Southern Theater, said later. And drama—even high-modernist, experimental drama—functioned as political education.

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