The Good Negro

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The Good Negro is a stage drama written by Tracey Scott Wilson which portrays the conflicts within the African American community during the crucial weeks of the Birmingham campaign. The specifics of the story and the characters involved are fictional, but are drawn from historical accounts.

In the play, two movement preachers come to Birmingham after a series of ineffective protests in other Southern cities. In concert with a local businessman they seek a "face" to put on the protests, knowing that whomever is placed on the pedestal will be subjected to penetrating and withering attacks, as well as the possibility of physical violence. In "Claudette", a woman beaten by a mob for daring to take her daughter to a whites-only toilet in a downtown store, they believe they have found the "Good Negro" that they need. As they try to convince her and her husband to let them use her in the movement, their own human weaknesses come into play. Meanwhile FBI agents listen in on meetings and provide exposition on the workings of the movement, as well as the active Klan groups pitted against them.

The play had its world premier at the Dallas Theater Center in Dallas, Texas in 2008. It opened in New York's Public Theater in February 2009. Due to strong response from audiences, the play's run was extended to April 19, 2009.

The script won a 2007 Weissberger Award and Wilson received fellowship grants from the Sundance Institute and Time Warner to facilitate its completion. In developing the script she worked closely with Diane McWhorter, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Carry Me Home", a non-fiction account of the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham.


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