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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

African American Literature: Black Drama

Scope of Coverage

According to their introduction, Black Drama, Second Edition contains "the full text of 1,462 plays written from the mid-1800s to the present by more than 233 playwrights from North America, English-speaking Africa, the Caribbean, and other African diaspora countries." While it is not comprehensive, it is a valuable resource, boasting numerous unwritten plays by notable writers such as Zora Neale Hurston, Derek Walcott, Amiri Baraka, and others. Strengths of the database include the Harlem Renaissance and the Federal Theatre Project, as well as the works of early African American dramatists such as William Wells Brown, Paul Laurence Dunbar, James Weldon Johnson, W.E.B. DuBois, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Angelina Weld Grimke, and others.

Each play is extensively indexed. Most are throughly researched and include links to information about the play's writers, actors, and performances. Some plays have links to images of playbills, still photographs, and other press material that is useful for a thorough contextualization of these works.

General Theater Resources

Image result for theater masks images

For resources on theater including reviews, visit the Music and Performing Arts Library Guide to Theater.

How to Search the Black Drama Database

Simple Search

The Black Drama database features two search options: Simple and Advanced. The Simple search offers a variety of searching options, including in-text searching, play title, author, age of author, gender, nationality, year of composition, and genre of play.

Each search box has a button to its right which allows you to browse for relevant terms. You are also given the option of how you want your search results to be displayed. At the bottom of the Simple search, you can select from one of four ways to view your results (context, line-by-line, and frequency by author or year).

Advanced Search

Advanced searching gives you additional options, such as race, previously unpublished, year published, year first produced, written for, settings, performers, composers, theater company, production company, and play code.

As with the Simple search, the Advanced search includes a Terms button to the right of the search box, which will allow you to browse for specific, searchable terms for that field.

Search Results

Your list of results will include the author, the title of the play (with a hyperlink to the full text of it), the publisher, its copyright information, where it was published in print, and links additional information where applicable.

You are also given addition options. You can search for specific terms within the plays that were generated in the search results by typing text into the "Search in Texts for" box. All you do is click on the box to the left of the entry that you want search through. You can also refine your results if you have a more specific result in mind.