During the late 1960s and early ’70s the black theater in America showed a certain vigor and eloquence. A new radical consciousness was struggling for expression, and though many of these youthful voices were stronger in intent than content, some genuine, talented dramatists and vivid performers were developing in those years (see “The New Black Theater,” Dissent, Winter 1973).
That time of high drama and visions of revolution, cultural autonomy and attempts to revive an African heritage has become a thing of the past. The black community now has entered a rocky period of readjustment, of malign neglect by a cynical national leadership—but also of at least partial consolidation of the economic, social, and political gains of the 1960s. Both the neglect and the advances created new areas and types of conflict (soon to be exacerbated by a deep recession), notably through the spread of an increasingly hopeless urban underclass—and, also, through the simultaneous growth of a new black middle class: college-bred, working in public service, the academy, communications, even the corporate sector....
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