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date: 27 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Zora Neale Hurston and Theodore Browne wrote versions of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata for all-black casts during the 1930s. This chapter explores how Hurston’s and Browne’s turn to Greek comedy facilitates a reassessment of African-American humor on the U.S. stage. These black playwrights’ dependence on comedy to address serious socio-political and cultural issues challenged the belief that the minstrel legacy rendered humor off-limits for serious African-American art. Under the auspices of the Federal Theater Project (FTP), Negro Units supported Hurston’s and Browne’s work and proved that humorous drama could effectively probe the thorniest issues facing black Americans. Their adaptations of Lysistrata address black labor issues, the African-American urban–rural conflict inspired by the Great Migration, the tension around emerging sociological studies, and a number of other socio-political themes of the era.

Keywords: Lysistrata, Aristophanes, Zora Neale Hurston, Theodore Browne, Federal Theatre Project, FTP, Negro Unit, comedy, minstrel, African-American

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