A Controversial Play
By 1924 Eugene O'Neill had penned over two dozen plays, garnering two Pulitzer Prizes and recognition as a major playwright. For a new play about an interracial marriage, O'Neill looked to a black spiritual for his title: "All God's Chillun Got Wings." Even before it premiered in a small New York theater in May 1924, the play caused controversy, because it depicted a relationship between a white woman and a black man.
O'Neill turned to a dynamic young African American actor, Paul Robeson, for the male lead. A college valedictorian and football star, Robeson had trained as a lawyer, but a love of public speaking drew him into acting. His dynamic presence and powerful singing voice would make him a star on stage and screen in the years to come.
In his later work, O'Neill would draw on his own family experience, but with "All God's Chillun Got Wings" he explored contemporary society. Learn more about this rarely performed play and why a depiction of physical affection between a white woman and an African American man caused such uproar in 1920s America.