All God's Chillun got wings


All God's Chillun got wings
   Eugene O'Neill's two-act drama exploring miscegenation caused a major furor when it opened at the Provincetown Playhouse under James Light's direction on 15 May 1924 for 43 performances. O'Neill received death threats from the Ku Klux Klan and others, leading the New York City license commissioner to consider closing the production on reports that white actress Mary Blair, in the role of Ella Downey, would kiss the hand of African American actor Paul Robeson. The Gerry Society also raised concerns over the employment of child actors, but it is clear that the central controversy stemmed from the depiction of a lifelong relationship between Jim and Ella. They love each other, but Ella is aware that prevailing racial attitudes preclude a marital relationship. Ella becomes involved with a white man and has a child by him, but when she is deserted and the child dies, the defeated Ella turns back to Jim. They marry, but she is so haunted by their racial difference that her precarious grip on sanity slips away. Reduced to a childlike state, Ella is cared for by the loving Jim. This sadly bitter play on the human toll of prejudice was revived for a short run in 1975 at the Circle in the Square Theatre* under George C. Scott's* direction.

The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. .

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