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A Controversial Play

Background | O'Neill's Words | Press Coverage | Robeson's Words | Today

The Play

Tony Kushner
"This frightening thing at the end of ['All God's Chillun Got Wings']: this black man and this white woman married, and she sort of becomes this ghost of racism -- this kind of monster of racism -- keeping him from studying. On one level it's laughable, and I don't know if you saw it on stage now, [if] could it work or not... I think things that seem outrageously melodramatic on the page sometimes can acquire an amazing power... in the hands of really great actors."
-- Tony Kushner, playwright

The Controversy

Arthur Gelb
"It was a play about lack of communication, inability to understand each other. And [O'Neill] made the man, Jim, a black man. He cast Paul Robeson in the part, and he cast a very well-known actress, Mary Blair, a white woman, in the part of his wife. Now in the play, thunder and lightning, she kisses her husband's hand. So a white woman kisses a black man's hand. That was just too much for our biased public to take -- especially our city fathers at City Hall. When they heard about this play, and when the critics, most of the critics heard about the play, they attacked it. They said this was miscegenation, and how dare a play be put on depicting a love affair between a black man and a white woman."
-- Arthur Gelb, author
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