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Rose McClendon’s Playbill: The Vagabond Modernism of New Negro Theater

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Why aren’t black women writers more central in conversations around the avant-garde in modernism?  Without resorting to VIDA-like statistics, we can observe that black women’s writing still occupies a marginal role in modernist inquiry despite several decades of recovery work.[1] Inroads have been made. Modernist Women Poets: An Anthology (2014), edited by Robert Hass and Paul Ebenkamp, includes Angelina Weld Grimké and Anne Spencer among its sixteen poets; still, these are only two among the many who should be on the canonical radar since the publication of Maureen Honey’s groundbreaking Shadowed Dreams: Women’s Poetry of the Harlem Renaissance (2006) and Evie Shockley’s Renegade Poetics: Black Aesthetics and Formal Innovation in African American Poetry (2011). Such studies draw explicit attention to African American women’s poetic innovation and form the basis of the rich, dynamic discourse around the spectacular twenty-first century flourishing of avant-garde black writers. Today’s avant-garde challenges the boundaries of form and content, but what about its black modernist foremothers? Black feminist performance suggests how we might reposition discussion of the New Negro movement’s intersections with modernism. By examining theatrical productions during the Harlem Renaissance, my essay claims an invigorating and transformative space for a black feminist avant-garde aesthetic.

If mainstream modernist scholarship initially overlooked what the specialized study of black women’s writing might contribute to the avant-garde, black feminist critics also pondered what would be gained through alignment with modernist studies. Did modernist studies offer anything that was not already present in the methodologies and theories approaches of African American studies and black feminist thought? Put another way: do the new modernisms need us more than we need them? Anne Anlin Cheng and Thadious Davis serve as exemplars who use feminist theory to intervene in modernist discourse, strategically recovering and expanding disciplinary boundaries and definitions that enhance the multiple fields that intersect within modernism’s sphere.[2] Taking up the familiar trope of Virginia Woolf’s “room of one’s own,” Davis frames black women’s modernism through the prism of spatial desire in conjunction with a material awareness of how the body is seen and constricted. The explicitly feminist need for “elbow” and/or breathing room in the midst of intersectional oppression has grounded many black feminist interrogations and recoveries of modernist endeavors. Salon spaces, for example, like Georgia Douglas Johnson’s DC “Saturday Nighters” (1920s–1930s), provided elbow room in which intraracial artistic exchanges could occur; but interactions between black and white modernists also occurred in spaces viewed primarily in modernist studies as bohemian and white. Even as Christine Stansell acknowledges Grace Nail Johnson’s participation in Heterodoxy, a feminist club in Greenwich Village (1912–1940s), she assumes that “for anyone black who sought admission, bohemia offered scant hospitality,” and that “New Negroes would not appear on the bohemian spectrum until the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, then only episodically.”[3] Yet Carla L. Peterson’s historiography of black New York and Jayna Brown’s examination of early black performance culture both demonstrate the vibrancy and engagement of black bohemia in lower Manhattan in the late nineteenth and early decades of the twentieth century.[4]

In this piece, I examine the under-studied career and Harlem Renaissance performances of Rose McClendon (1884–1936) as modernist avant-garde theater. To argue for the continued value of feminist inquiry in modernist studies, I recruit reading strategies from feminism, African American literary theory, visual culture and performance studies. These strategies shed new light on the images and interpretations comprising the evocative archive of McClendon’s dramatic career. Such an integrated matrix enables us to challenge a limited and exclusionary understanding of the avant-garde. Further, to regard Harlem Renaissance theater as part of an avant-garde tradition is to illuminate the versatility and improvisational qualities of vaudeville.

Narrative Scrapbooking as Modernist Praxis

Starting with the lynching plays of the early 1910s, black theater has challenged expectations of staging, performance, and content, and Harlem Renaissance players were an integral part of the artistic activism of the New Negro movement. New Negro theater is a productive site for considering how the expression of the body can transform stereotypical dialogue and plot in a way that is generative, anti-racist, and avant-garde. During the New Negro era, black women such as Rose McClendon wrote and starred in plays challenging or illustrating intersectional oppression. They composed and sang about bluesy graveyard love, illicit (interracial, homosexual) desire, and lynching.[5] The archive at the center of my piece is McClendon’s scrapbook, conceived as a collage that preserves, memorializes, and evokes a sense of the stage productions’ ephemera while also creating its own multi-media narrative. Located in multiple sites, McClendon’s “scrapbook” is both conceptual and material: it is accessible via microfilm at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and as a folio filled with articles, photos, playbills, letters, and other ephemera in the Alexander Gumby Collection of Negroiana at Columbia University.[6] Viewed through black feminist bifocals and against the grain of conventional theater history, McClendon’s scrapbook serves as a portal to the expressive performance strategies that made her one of the era’s most lauded actresses as well as an important activist and organizer. Tracing how reviewers chronicled and archivists commemorated McClendon’s performances reveals that her acting often exceeded the limitations of her scripts. Her numerous performances countered stereotypes in white-authored plays and complicated notions of authenticity present in those written by African Americans. Her superlative artistry established her as an early feminist pioneer in the realm of black theater studies and an inspiration for budding dramatic critics. Finally, perlustrating her scrapbook also reveals McClendon’s critical contributions to the longevity of the play Porgy and Bess in its various dramatic and musical iterations.

Anne Anlin Cheng’s interventions in modernist discourse provide a template for exploring how McClendon’s on- and off-stage performance strategies allow us to view New Negro theater as an avant-garde space for experimental artistry. Cheng compellingly asserts the centrality of racial fetishism to modernist style, noting that the “avant-garde’s appetite for [Josephine] Baker is the stuff of which legends are made” (Second Skin, 6). It is precisely the intersection of feminist and critical race theory that provides the tools that enable Cheng to intervene and identify the “active interplay (both material and theoretical) between Modernistic aesthetic practices and the manifest terms of Baker iconography” (6). In a similar vein, Jennifer Wilks asserts that Marita Bonner’s use of abstract expressionism in her play The Purple Flower (1928) “soundly dispels notions that either radical politics or experimental art were anathema to middle- and upper-middle-class black women modernists.”[7] Agreed, but abstractions and allegory are readily recognizable avant-garde forms; what of more subtle disruptions evinced within a performance, tonal and gestural, those of pitch, inflection, and physical expression? The flexibility of the dramatic medium and McClendon’s singular presence communicated her adeptness at working the raw materials of script and concept into art.

McClendon’s collaborative performance strategies resonated with her activist sentiments. She used her talent to manipulate her roles, transcend stereotypes, and communicate her artistry and glamour to her audience:

I cannot say that all my life I wanted to act. I had seen so many things badly done in churches that I wanted always to teach children what to do and when to do it; so when the chance came to study under the late Franklin Sargent of the American Academy of dramatic arts, I jumped at it. I studied with him for three years and before I knew it I was doing one of the leading roles in Butler Davenport’s “Justice” Then came “Roseanne,” “Deep River,” and now “In Abraham’s Bosom.”[8]

Several of the aforementioned plays used dramatic performance as mode of protesting the terror of lynching as socially sanctioned practice in the face of censorship and limited staging opportunities. Cast as the only dark skinned actress playing a quadroon in a melodrama about the antebellum system of plaçage, McClendon electrified audiences and critics who were struck by the dignity of her performance as Octavie in Deep River (1926); Carl Van Vechten describes her “scene in the last act” as “unforgettable” and another fan letter notes “in my humble judgment your acting is the only piece of work that is outstanding.”[9] With its unusual interracial casting, Deep River had a short run on Broadway, but McClendon would continue to play characters involved in interracial relationships, such as Cora in Langston Hughes’s Mulatto (1935), and star in controversial productions like Paul Green’s In Abraham’s Bosom (1926), in which she played the love interest of a man whose activism leads to his death. With the exception of Mulatto, Hughes’s most successful and longest running play, these politically charged dramas had abbreviated runs.[10] In contrast, white-authored plays like Dorothy and DuBose Heyward’s Porgy and Bess (1927), were less overtly political, and indeed, even regressive, but through innovative performances like McClendon’s became sites of artistic experimentation. Porgy and Bess also mobilized black audiences on the traveling circuit through by providing opportunities for collective spectatorship.[11]

Porgy purports to offer an authentic portrayal of the black Gullah community of “Catfish Row.” At the center of the tale is a love triangle between the alluring Bess, her violent boyfriend Crown, and the disabled, lovestruck Porgy. Crown’s killing of Serena’s husband, and the temptations of city life, drinking and drugs, propel the narrative of love, betrayal, and sacrifice. Some contemporaneous critics saw Porgy as a significant achievement, but Jessie Fauset wished for alternative representations of black life: “does the situation of the educated Negro . . . call for artistic treatment at least as sincere and sympathetic as Porgy received.”[12]  Despite its vexed role in theatrical history, rather than dismissing Porgy for its admittedly problematic representations as racist and offensive, I share Gwynne Kuhner Brown’s view of Porgy as an interracial collaboration:

[Porgy and Bess] could not have survived, let alone established itself as one of the few great American operas, without the willingness of first-rate black artists to bring it to life onstage and support it offstage. The indispensable, active role that African American performers have played in every critically successful production of Porgy and Bess challenges the assumption that the work is something done by whites to blacks.[13]

Despite the challenges of Porgy, first as a play and later as a folk opera, the key to its success resided in the collaboration “between the composer and the Theatre Guild cast members” (Brown, “Performers,” 166). A similar collaboration was also at work in the play itself, which is how McClendon’s Serena is able to transcend the constraints of the mourning mother. She resists racially fraught scripting by translating the “hieroglyphics,” after Zora Neale Hurston’s usage, of Porgy’s plagiarism of black dialect.[14] She stretches the limits of Serena’s script in a way that communicates powerfully with audiences despite the stock and inauthentic representations present in Porgy. This is why critics singled her out for special commendation during the two years she remained with the production, and why also her performance of loss through Serena’s utterances resonates so spectacularly through the play, to the musical and, ultimately, in Nina Simone’s transformative rendition (1967) of Serena’s signature lament.

Cheryl Black acknowledges the paradox within characterizations of McClendon’s roles as stereotypes and authentic representation. Rather than the jezebel or tragic mulatto, the stereotype McClendon most often had to overcome was the abject “the suffering, passive victim of or witness to violence and death.” [15] While I wouldn’t paint McClendon’s roles with quite such a broad brush, the role of Serena—the jilted woman—would presumably qualify as an abject role; however, spectators as well as playwright DuBose Heyward saw her portrayal as an arbiter of respectability. Even Black concedes that Serena as interpreted by McClendon “does not fit neatly into stereotype, and is something of an outsider in the Catfish Row community” (“Abject No More,” 49–50).

McClendon’s Serena Robbins is a “Self respecting ‘white folks’ negress, of about thirty,” God-fearing, in contrast to Bess, who is described in the stage directions as flaunting a “typical, but debased, Negro beauty” (14). Serena’s opening lines are consistent with Porgy’s signature, egregious interpretation of Gullah dialect:

Serena: [pleadingly]: Honey-boy!

Ef yo’ didn’t hab licker in yo’ right now, yo’ wouldn’t talk like dat. Yo’ know whut you done promise’ me last week.[16]   

The jarring syntax of the scripted lines contradicts the poise visually communicated by McClendon’s Serena; her portrayal surmounted this gulf between text and performance, resulting in what London critics deemed “the most impressive figure” in the play.[17] One of the more striking scenes is the close of act one scene one where Serena mourns the death of her husband, Robbins, at the hands of Crown; she speaks no lines, but keens in grief. Music was present in Porgy, but only in scenes where it would have organically and spontaneously manifested, such as in choral church scenes or work songs. In the musical Porgy and Bess, Ira Gershwin’s score transposes Serena’s utterances in the signature aria “My Man’s Gone Now,” which would later be sung by classically trained sopranos like Leontyne Price and transformed by activist/songstress Nina Simone. In both versions, vestiges of Serena’s spirituals can be heard, as well as her utterances, the keening and moans. McClendon’s vocals activate the play’s emotional center. Scene II opens with her singing three verses of “Deat’, aint yuh gots no shame, shame?” and closes with the Negro “shout” “I will meet um in de Primus Lan’”:

Serena is the first to leap to her feet and begin to shout. One by one, as the spirit moves them, the Negroes follow her example till they are all their feet, swaying, shuffling, clapping their hands. (Porgy, 44) 

Serena’s leadership in the community is critical throughout the play. She serves as counterpoint to the weak-hearted and flighty Bess, rising to fulfill her responsibilities despite great loss without reliance on Sportin’ Life’s “happy dust.” When circumstances conspire for Bess to flee and accompany her dealer to New York, it is Serena who remains to mother Bess’s baby and inform Porgy of the futility of pining after Bess. It is Serena who speaks the last line of the play, “Ain’t we tell yo’ . . . Your woman is gone for good” (201).

A Lady of Color

McClendon’s elegance, her cultivated, expressive performance, resulted in wide circulation of her visual image as the face of the play Porgy (fig. 1). This dignified likeness, which recurs with slight alterations throughout both scrapbooks, sometimes captioned “A Lady of Color,” emphasizes her sincerity and dedication to acting and admonishes detractors who viewed Porgy as derivative, embarrassing, or inauthentic.[18] Austere, regal and angular, the illustration lends a gravitas to Porgy and shifts the psychic weight from the love triangle at its center to the larger community. Reviewers noted that McClendon’s performance as the “catfish row aristocrat Serena” “upstages Bess,” the primary female lead. McClendon’s on- and off-stage advocacy augmented these impressions.[19] Also found in the scrapbook is a handwritten version of Bruce Nugent’s “An Equinox to Rose McClendon” (1931), a poem that speaks to her publics’ regard, but also entwines McClendon’s outward personae with her bodily interior self:

As any and all may be Rose

            There is but ten thousand and

            All are Rose McClendon

            Even thru appendicitis and

            Her womanly insides flung

            To paint the inside of jars

            That hung

            In Edgecombe Sanitarium

            Then--

            Even iced-tea and gin

            With poets, cabbage a la king

            And abandoned grace Oh shake

                                                that thing

            Rose McClendon—Star.[20]

Nugent alternates between conjuring multiple iterations of “Rose” in contrast to a very poignant, singular incarnation whose body and interior self coexists alongside the other public Roses, the constellation of “stars” proliferating in the media, advertising her theatrical roles. Significantly, “her womanly insides” aren’t pictured or publicized, but remain private in “Edgecombe Sanitarium,” until disclosed, ironically, in verse.

Fig. 1.  Newspaper clipping of Rose McClendon in Porgy, Amsterdam News, Wednesday, October 19, 1927. Rose McClendon Scrapbooks, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, The New York Public Library.

McClendon’s fame was already established before she took the stage in Porgy by her major roles in Deep River, In Abraham’s Bosom, and Roseanne. Like many actresses, and several other Harlem Renaissance artists, she fabricated certain aspects of her biography, including shaving years off her age. The New Negro era tended to favor male over female ingénues, as Zora Neale Hurston, Nella Larsen and Dorothy West knew well—each would script a fabricated persona, in varying degrees, to advance their career. The list of superlatives describing McClendon’s performances include, “world’s greatest colored actress” and “Our First Lady of the Theatre” (Black, “Abject No More,” 54, 55). Despite the hyperbolic praise she received, she sought ways to improve and diversify the overall quality of African American roles through her own writing, directing, and founding of the Negro People’s Theatre (eventually incorporated into the Harlem unit of the Federal Theater Project). While her failing health meant that her activism was short-lived, she was associated with and served on the board of numerous theatrical associations—Theatre Union, Negro Repertory Company, National Urban League, The Hope Day Nursery, to name just a few. At McClendon’s suggestion, more Negro units of the FTP were developed throughout the U.S. in 1936. In a letter to the New York Times, she wrote:

Now what makes a Negro theater is not so much the use of Negroes as the   selection of plays that deal with Negroes, with Negro problems, with phases of Negro life, faithfully presented and accurately delineated. Any other approach is doomed to failure.[21] 

Her prophetic statement was borne out as several Negro units became the “antithesis of [her] vision” when African Americans were shut out of the planning stages and stymied by the FTP’s tolerance of a “’separate but equal’ artistic system,” which resulted in the units functioning as “white endeavor[s] carried out by black participants” (Redd, “Birmingham’s Federal,” 276).  Ironically, Porgy’s long-running success and McClendon’s performance in it, similarly ran counter to her political aims of black agency and representation. McClendon would not live to see the failure of the Negro units, however, as she died at fifty-one in 1936 of pleurisy or pneumonia. In her honor, Dick Campbell would establish the “Rose McClendon Players” to carry on her legacy.

It is McClendon’s inherent dignity, cultivated professionalism and dramatic aura that imbued these roles with their authenticity, and with the glamour Nugent’s poem ascribes to her on and offstage images. The iconicity of McClendon as the queen of Negro theater in her brief, spectacular career is somewhat analogous to other, more recognizable, black female performers such as Baker, Aida Overton Walker, and Florence Mills. As Cheng writes: “Baker [was] expertly skilled at making models of herself, which both shield and reveal her. In short, she wears her nudity—and her images—like second skins” (Second Skin, 66). Yet, as a serious, dramatic actor who frequently starred in anti-lynching plays, McClendon also offers an avant-garde counter to vaudeville and its indebtedness to minstrelsy. Her artistry, akin to Nugent’s poetic evocation, both shields and reveals.

Spotlighting McClendon’s scrapbook archive also reveals the emergence of a shrewd, eclectic cluster of black women as vocal theater critics. Like many New Negro women artists, these evolving dramaturges wore multiple hats; feminist recovery efforts have drawn attention to their poetry, fiction, and editorial efforts, but little attention has been paid to their theater criticism. Jessie Redmon Fauset’s “The Gift of Laughter” was published in Alain Locke’s The New Negro: An Interpretation (1923) and Gwendolyn Bennett regularly reviewed performances in her “Ebony Flute” in Opportunity. Frustrated by theater’s lack of innovation in casting and genre, which they saw as lagging decades behind other art forms, they bemoaned the trappings of vaudeville and comedy, the scarcity of black dramas, and the dominance of white male playwrights. Critics such as Eulalie Spence singled out McClendon: “Yes, we have our colored artists. We have our Robeson, Rose Mclenndon [sic], our Wilson and various others who have reached an undeniable place of prominence in the realm of the theater.”[22]  Bennett wrote of the stark contrast between Negro drama and the other arts: “The tale of the Negro in Drama, although of a very scintillating quality, enjoyed no lasting good fortune during the last year.” [23]  These critics were just beginning to articulate what we would later identify as feminist concerns.

Without performative experimentation and collaboration—McClendon’s is just one potential example—it’s unlikely plays like Porgy would have been restaged with such frequency throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. Bennett’s column celebrates “the impressive beauty of Rose McClendon’s acting,” while optimistically anticipating that “drama has developed a new technique, new ways and means, a new genius of mechanism and a new direction” (“Ebony Flute,” 28). Keeping on black feminist bifocals as we weave in multi-disciplinary strands allows imaginative speculation about how the sonic resonances of McClendon’s interpretation of Serena’s grief inhabit, or even promulgate, Nina Simone’s transformation of “My Man’s Gone Now” into an anthem of historically relevant collective mourning. A case in point is Ewa Ziarek’s exploration of what it means to seriously analyze Larsen’s daring negotiation of the racial contract and intertextuality in “Sanctuary” on Larsen’s own terms without dismissal or deification. Read by Ziarek, “Sanctuary’s” “almost-folklore” is a reverberant trope of black mourning that resonates with McClendon’s strategic voicing of Serena’s pain and in the replays of black grief now animating the digital realm.

As this cluster of essays demonstrates, we work in isolation at our own peril. Black feminist interventions in modernism have enabled us to consider the power differentials at play in collaborative efforts across race, gender, class and sexuality; they remind us to stay alert as such acts are narrated, archived, promoted, and commemorated. Black feminists and their objects of study have thrived precisely because of artists/performers/practitioners’ ability to nimbly navigate the gaps. In answer to the questions posed at the start of this essay regarding the reciprocity between global black studies and modernism, this cluster with its deployment of what Madelyn Detloff calls “multiple tools in the hands of multiple practitioners” invites modernist scholars to act as responsible collaborators, self-aware guests, rather than thieves in the temple.


Notes

[1] VIDAweb.org tracks the number of women’s awards in the literary arts.

[2] See Anne Anlin Cheng, Second Skin: Josephine Baker and the Surface of the Modern (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), and Thadious Davis, “Black Women’s Modernist Literature,” in Cambridge Companion to Modernist Women Writers, ed. Maren Tova Linett (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 95–109. My methodology and reading practices in this piece are guided by and in dialogue with the work of Tracie Denean Sharpley-Whiting, Jennifer Wilks, Stephanie Batiste, Jayna Brown, Miriam Thaggert, Soyica Colbert, and Margo Crawford, who in their studies of African American modernism and performance have kept feminist inquiry at the forefront of their analyses, even as they stretch and challenge the boundaries of their objects of study.

[3] Christine Stansell, American Moderns: Bohemian New York and the Creation of a New Century (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010), 68. In his autobiography Along This Way (Boston, MA: Da Capo Press, 2000), James Weldon Johnson recounts attending “two or three parties in Greenwich Village,” and reciprocating interracial gatherings of bohemian artists and intellectuals at their home in Harlem (379).

[4] See Carla L. Peterson, “What Renaissance? A Deep Genealogy of Black Culture in Nineteenth-Century New York City,” and Jayna Brown, “Harlem Nights: Expressive Culture, Popular Performance and the New Negro,” in A Companion to the Harlem Renaissance, ed. Cherene Sherrard-Johnson (West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2015), 17–34, 51–64.

[5] Koritha Mitchell, Living with Lynching: African American Lynching Plays, Performance, and Citizenship, 1890–1930 (Urbana: University of Illinois, 2011).

[6] Similar to Arturo Schomburg, Alexander Gumby was a passionate collector of African Americana. He was known as “Mr. Scrapbook”; his collection includes 161 volumes, many of them focusing on the Harlem Renaissance era and African American performance. The Schomburg Center holdings include two volumes entitled the Rose McClendon Scrapbooks dating from 1916 to 1935, donated by her husband’s estate.

[7] Jennifer Wilks, Race, Gender, and Comparative Black Modernism: Suzanne Lacascade, Marita Bonner, Suzanne Césaire, Dorothy West (Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 2008), 79.

[8] “Dramatis Personae,” The Crisis 34 (April 1927): 55. Clipping, Rose McClendon Scrapbooks, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Archives.

[9] Letter to McClendon from John K. Nail, October 22, 1926; Letter to McClendon from Carl Van Vechten, October 15, 1926. Rose McClendon Scrapbooks, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Archives.

[10] Mulatto ran for 373 performances. See Harry J. Elam and Michele Elam, “Blood Debt: Reparations in Langston Hughes’ Mulatto,” Theatre Journal 61, no. 1 (2009): 85–103.

[11] I don’t have the space to fully explore the myriad viewing experiences of audiences who viewed the play; however, the programs preserved in the Alexander Gumby scrapbook include a variety of international venues like London’s His Majesty’s Theater and multiple domestic appearances in theaters in Wisconsin.

[12] Jessie Fauset, “The Negro in Art: How Shall He Be Portrayed,” Crisis 32, no. 2 (1927): 71–72, 72.

[13] Gwynne Kuhner Brown, “Performers in Catfish Row: Porgy and Bess as Collaboration,” in Blackness in Opera, ed. Naomi André, Karen M. Bryan, and Eric Saylor (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2012), 164–186, 164.

[14] See “Towards a Transformative Feminist Aesthetics” in this cluster for Ziarek’s invocation of Zora Neale Hurston’s discussion of African American dialect.

[15] Cheryl Black’s article is the most comprehensive critical treatment of McClendon’s career. Cheryl Black, “Abject No More: Authority and Authenticity in the Theatrical Career of Rose McClendon,” Theatre History Studies 30  (2010): 42-64, 59.

[16] Dorothy Heyward and Dubose Heyward, Porgy: A Play in Four Acts, Theatre Guild of America Version, (New York: Doubleday, 1928), 5.

[17] Clipping from The Spectator April 20, 1929. Rose McClendon Scrapbooks, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Archives.

[18] Despite the similarity of the images, the drawings may have been done by multiple illustrators. Rowland Field, “The New Play: ‘PORGY,’ at the Theatre Guild in ‘Porgy,’ The New York Amsterdam News, Oct 19, 1927, 8.

[19] DuBose Heyward, “The Casting and Rehearsing of Porgy,” New York Sun, October 22, 1927. Rose McClendon Scrapbooks, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Archives.

[20] Richard Bruce Nugent, “An Equinox to Rose McClendon,” June 30, 1931. Rose McClendon Scrapbooks, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Archives.

[21] Quoted in Tina Redd, “Birmingham’s Federal Theater Project Negro Unit,” in African American Performance and Theater History: A Critical Reader, ed. Harry J. Elam and David Krasner (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 271–287, 273.

[22] Eulalie Spense, “A Criticism of the Negro Drama as It Relates to the Negro Dramatist and Artist” (1928), in The New Negro: Readings on Race, Representations, and African American Culture, 1892–1938, ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Gene Andrew Jarrett (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007), 527.

[23] Gwendolyn Bennett, “Ebony Flute,” Opportunity (January 1927): 28–29, 28.

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