Playwright Alice Childress, presents realistic Black life with optimism
On this date in 1920, Alice Childress was born. She was an African-American playwright, novelist, and actress. She was known for her realistic stories about the lasting optimism of Black Americans.
She was born in Charleston, SC, and grew up in Harlem, New York City, where she studied drama with the American Negro Theater in the 1940s. There she wrote, directed, and starred in her first play, "Florence" (1949), a dramatic piece about a black woman who, after meeting an insensitive white actress in a railway station, comes to respect her daughter's attempts to pursue an acting career.
Other Childress theatrical offerings include "Trouble in Mind." This play was produced in 1955 and awarded the 1956 Obie award for best original off-Broadway play; it was revised and republished in 1971. Other plays are "Wedding Band" (1966), "String" (1969), and "Wine in the Wilderness" (1969). All examine racial and social issues.
Among Childress' plays that feature music are "Just a Little Simple" (1950), based on Langston Hughes's "Simple Speaks His Mind." Also "The African Garden (1971), "Gullah" (1984), based on her 1977 play "Sea Island Song," and "Moms" (1987) about the life of comedienne Jackie "Moms" Mabley. Childress was also a successful writer of children's literature.
She also wrote "A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a Sandwich" (1973), a novel for adolescents about a teenage drug addict (made into a film in 1978). Similarly, the novel, "Rainbow Jordan" (1981) concerns the struggles of poor, black, urban youth.
She wrote for juveniles the plays "When the Rattlesnake Sounds" (1975) and "Let's Hear It for the Queen" (1976). Her other novels include "A Short Walk" (1979), "Many Closets" (1987), and "Those Other People" (1989).
Childress also lectured at Fisk University and Radcliffe.
Alice Childress died in 1994, in New York City.
Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia
Volumes 1 and 2, edited by Darlene Clark Hine
Copyright 1993, Carlson Publishing Inc., Brooklyn, New York