Book Review of
A History of African American Theatre
by Errol Hill and Jim Hatch
Well, here it is. James V. Hatch and the late Errol G. Hill deserve a round of applause for the amount of research that undoubtedly went into the creation of A History of African American Theatreas well as for the sheer breadth of topics covered in this book. Most people will not read this 600-page tome the way I did—cover to cover (though it does make for a good narrative if you have a few days). Rather, I imagine scholars wondering about a particular era in African American theater history picking up this book first, in order to get a summary of a particular major figure, movement or company. He or she will also check here for information on an obscure reference and leads on where to continue research.
In the final paragraphs, the authors state their goals in writing this history. They say the book is intended for scholars so that a more complete and more thoroughly integrated American theater history may be written and the contributions of African Americans are not forgotten or relegated to token paragraphs. In his introduction, Lloyd Richards claims that the book is for “every black person who aspires to a life in the theatre” as well as “every white child…[in order to have] knowledge of the vigor and diversity of the theater in America.” (xiii) I would like to push that readership further and argue that this book is for any scholar (not just Blacks and Whites) who is interested in American theater. I think this text could also serve high school and college drama classes very well. (Though the $130 price tag might deter instructors from assigning the text as required reading.) Graduate students and professors can also use this text for foundational research in an unfamiliar topic for writing papers or teaching classes.