Article Title

Fear Mongering, Media Intimidation, and Political Machinations: Tracing the Agendas Behind the All God's Chillun Got Wings Controversy


Jeffrey Ullom


In numerous moments throughout American history, theatre has been attacked by the federal government as well as local and state governments. From the occurrence of three men being charged with public disorder for acting in Ye Bear and Ye Cubb to the censoring of funds by the National Endowment for the Arts to “inappropriate” productions, government and politics have played an important role in the development and/or obstruction of theatre in America. When analyzing the attempts of government to censor theatre, it is easy to forget that the bureaucracy is comprised of politicians who often act in their own interests. Considering the personal motivations of politicians and their actions, the relationship between the censoring of theatre in American and the personal motivations of politicians and/or political factions surprisingly has been ignored in historical studies. This article focuses upon a year containing unique political events as well as an infamous attempt of censorship of a theatrical production: the 1924 controversy surrounding Eugene O’Neill’s All God’s Chillun’ Got Wings (where a white actress kneeled to kiss the hand of Paul Robeson, the famous black actor). This work exposes how the perceived controversy involving O’Neill’s production at the Provincetown Playhouse resulted not from simple outrage at the interracial relationship, but from political jockeying between various individuals and organizations vying for a more prominent role in the national convention (occurring in New York City) during the 1924 presidential race.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.