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Diaspora, Citizenship, and Geographies of Identity in the Dramaturgy of Amiri Baraka and August Wilson

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Diaspora, Citizenship, and Geographies of Identity in the Dramaturgy of Amiri Baraka and August Wilson. 


The question of reinventing African American citizenship and cultural identity is a historical process that situates him as a victim of forced diaspora that saw him unsolicited carted into the decks of slave ships and transported across the vast Atlantic ocean to the New World to serve as free labour for the economic exploitation of the new imperial and colonial powers and their capitalist collaborators.

The struggle for identity, citizenship, freedom, and recognition began with captivity which stripped the African slave of his hitherto freeman status. Subjugated as a slave, he is repudiated and consigned to lower caste status as a result of the endowment of his skin colour. Prior to the 1950s however, African Americans’ effort centered on the drive for freedom, sometimes eliciting calls for integration and assimilation into the mainstream culture.

In what became unprecedented move, the 1950s Civil Rights Movement initiated the most organized and most formidable social movement in the history of the United States which boldly confronted the nagging issue of citizenship and political franchise for the African American. Hitherto, all cultural and literary productions dwelt largely on inklings towards assimilation and integration into the mainstream culture.


Title Page——————————————————————–
Certification—————————————————————– i
Declaration—————————————————————— ii
Dedication——————————————————————- iii
Acknowledgement——————————————————— iv
Abstract———————————————————————- vi
Table of Contents———————————————————– x

1.1 Introduction——————————————————————— 1
1.2 Significance of the Transatlantic Triangle——————————– 6
1.3 Virginia and Maryland Legislations: Implication for African American Citizenship Status ————————18
1.4 The Abolition of Slave Trade and Its Implications for the African American—————————————- 24
1.5 Theoretical Framework———————————————————– 30
1.5.1 Setting / Play Titles————————————————————— 35
1.5.2 Plot and Characterisation——————————————————– 39
1.5.3 The Middle Class Syndrome—————————————————- 40
1.5.4 Ebonics: Black American Vernacular English——————————– 42
1.5.5 Heritage of Slavery and Oppression (Paternalism)————————— 44
1.5.6 Community and Communal Consciousness———————————– 45
1.5.7 The Black Family Structure—————————————————– 46
1.5.8 The Blues: An African American Musical Form—————————- 48
References————————————————————————- 53

2.1 Introduction———————————————————————— 55
2.2 Race, Discrimination, and the African Diaspora—————————– 58
2.3 Citizenship Debates————————————————————— 73
2.3.1 Constitutional Framework for United States Citizenship——————– 74
2.3.2 Theoretical Framework for Citizenship—————————————- 75
2.4 Citizenship and Geographies of Identity————————————– 82
2.4.1 Diaspora, Citizenship, and Geographies of Identity————————– 84
References————————————————————————- 101

3.1 Introduction———————————————————————— 105
3.2 Amiri Baraka: The Man and His Ideology———————————— 107
3.3 Analysis of Dutchman and The Slave—————————————— 115
3.3.1 Setting / Play Titles————————————————————— 116
3.3.2 Plot and Characterisation——————————————————– 119
3.3.3 The Middle Class Syndrome—————————————————- 132
3.3.4 Heritage of Slavery and Oppression (Paternalism)————————— 142
3.3.5 Community and Communal Consciousness———————————– 148
3.3.6 Ebonics: Black American Vernacular English——————————– 153
References————————————————————————- 175

4.1 Introduction———————————————————————— 160
4.2 August Wilson: The Man, His Ideology, and Vision———————— 161
4.3 Analysis of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Fences———————— 169
4.3.1 Setting / Play Titles————————————————————— 170
4.3.2 Plot and Characterisation——————————————————– 179
4.3.3 The Middle Class Syndrome—————————————————- 190
4.3.4 Heritage of Slavery and Oppression (Paternalism)————————– 194
4.3.5 Community and Communal Consciousness———————————– 200
4.3.6 Ebonics: Black American Vernacular English——————————– 203
4.3.7 The Black Family Structure—————————————————– 207
4.3.8 The Blues: African American Musical Form——————————– 213
4.9 Overview of Analysis———————————————————— 216

REFERENCES————————————————————————- 229


Until recently, the African diaspora was not given adequate scholarly attention because most scholars saw this diaspora as merely an antecedent of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. As more and more attention and studies are devoted to this area, findings prove that African migration (or diaspora or dispersal) predated the trans-Atlantic slave trade era.

Although Africa had ‘international’ contacts with both the Old West and the Muslim World before the trans-Atlantic slave trade, this relation was at different levels other than commercial human trafficking for economic and capitalist exploitations. The trans-Atlantic slave trade as an expansive transoceanic phenomenon gave rise to centripetal and centrifugal discourses which invariably shaped events across the Atlantic world, culminating in a web of oceanic interculture of intellectualism, creolization, hybridity and religious interface.

This diasporic spread of Africans across the Atlantic in contested spaces and locales, and juxtaposed against the antecedent cultural transmutations has far-reaching cultural, political, historical, literary, and religious consequences for the African in the New World (and the African on the homeland), as well as the cultures and peoples of the West (the United States in particular).

Central to this intercultural synergy are the metaphors of the ‘middle passage’ and ‘the ship’. Against the backdrop of Paul Gilroy’s (1999) reading, the ship is personified as “living, micro-cultural, micro-political system in motion” that served as agency for the historic circum-Atlantic intercultural dialogue and the emerging culture of modernity


Berghahn, Marion (1977) Images of Africa in Black American Literature. The Macmillan Press Ltd. London.

Butterfield, Stephen (1974) Black Autobiography in America. University of Massachusetts Press. Amherst. Chicago Press. Chicago and London.

Conrad, Joseph (1995) Heart of Darkness and Other Stories. Wordsworth
Editions Ltd. Hertfordshire. Degler, Carl N. (1985) Out of Our Past. The Forces That Shaped Modern America. Third Edition. Harper Torch books. New York.

Dewart, Janet, ed., (1990) The State of Black America 1990. Published by National Urban League, Inc., New York.

Faulks, Keith (2000) Citizenship. Routledge. London and New York.

Franklin, J. H., ed., (1968) Color and Race. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston.

Gidley, Mick, ed., (1993) Modern American Culture: An Introduction. Longman London.- 281 –

Iyo, Joseph A. (1999) Towards Understanding Belize’s Multicultural History and Identity. University of Belize, Belmopan, Belize.

Kanneh, Kadiatu (1989) African Identities.

Race, Nation and Culture in Ethnography, Pan- Africanism and Black Literature. Routledge. London and New York.

CSN Team.

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