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Staging FaithReligion and African American Theater from the Harlem Renaissance to World War II$
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Craig R. Prentiss

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780814707951

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814707951.001.0001

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Caught within the Shadow

Caught within the Shadow

(p.109) 4 Caught within the Shadow
Staging Faith

Craig R. Prentiss

NYU Press

This chapter examines plays that share a common theme—embracing progress through education—in which the writers depict both conservative, southern Christianity and African conjuring traditions as harmful to racial progress, with education providing the remedy to flawed spiritual thinking. These plays imply that black religiosity becomes more traditionalistic the farther one travels south of the Mason-Dixon line, despite Washington's own position on the wrong side of that line and its established segregation. Religion, superstition, education, and regional bias intersect in the plays of two Washington-based authors, May Miller and Willis Richardson. Education was seen as liberating not only to agnostics (like Richardson) but also to theologically liberal Christians (like Miller), as it aligns faith with reason and the scientific progress of the age.

Keywords:   education, southern Christianity, African conjuring traditions, racial progress, black religiosity, May Miller, Willis Richardson

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