Julius B. Fleming Jr.Aug 17, 2022
Performance, Civil Rights, and the Unfinished Project of Emancipation
New York University Press 2022
“Freedom, Now!” This rallying cry became the most iconic phrase of the Civil Rights Movement, challenging the persistent command that Black people wait—in the holds of slave ships and on auction blocks, in segregated bus stops and schoolyards—for their long-deferred liberation.
In Black Patience: Performance, Civil Rights, and the Unfinished Project of Emancipation (NYU Press, 2022), Julius B. Fleming Jr. argues that, during the Civil Rights Movement, Black artists and activists used theater to energize this radical refusal to wait. Participating in a vibrant culture of embodied political performance that ranged from marches and sit-ins to jail-ins and speeches, these artists turned to theater to unsettle a violent racial project that Fleming refers to as “Black patience.” Inviting the likes of James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, Alice Childress, Douglas Turner Ward, Duke Ellington, and Oscar Brown Jr. to the stage, Black Patience illuminates how Black artists and activists of the Civil Rights era used theater to expose, critique, and repurpose structures of white supremacy. In this bold rethinking of the Civil Rights Movement, Fleming contends that Black theatrical performance was a vital technology of civil rights activism, and a crucial site of Black artistic and cultural production.
Mickell Carter is a doctoral student in the department of history at Auburn University. She can be reached at email@example.com and on twitter @MickellCarter.