Date of Award

1-1-2013

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Department

Theatre and Dance

Sub-Department

Theatre and Dance

First Advisor

Amy Lehman

Abstract

Race, class and gender exist as categorizations to distinguish and preserve privilege and identity in the United States of America. These societal constructs of race, class and gender often place African-Americans in comparison or in contrast to White cultural identities. Furthermore, these characteristics differentiate African-Americans as an 'Other;' a categorical group in conflict with dominant White societal values and norms. African-American female playwrights Lorraine Hansberry and Lydia Diamond address established attitudes about race, class, and gender in their plays, A Raisin in the Sun (1959) and Stick Fly (2006) respectively. Their works present strong Black female characters that contend with the multiple layers of these categorizations. These characters embrace and resist the structures of race, class and gender as they define their identity both in concert with and in opposition to American society. This research explores the 50 year time span that separates these dramatic works and demonstrates how race, class and gender continue to support an unbalanced societal dynamic across time. Critical Race Theory (CRT) serves as a methodological lens through which Blackness can be viewed in comparison to Whiteness, and enables a more systematic examination of the qualities assigned to African-Americans as a result of perceived differences between groups. Additionally, feminist and Black feminist thought analyzes the ways in which a female identity is measured against a male identify and is informed by race and class. An analysis of Hansberry's and Diamond's work provides an illustration of how these dramatic characters contribute to an understanding of Black female identity, as well as, how race, class and gender have collectively contributed to the lack of structural growth among this demographic from the mid twentieth century to the present day.

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