Dutchman and The Slave Background

Dutchman and The Slave Background

Amiri Baraka, previously known as LeRoi Jones first presented Dutchman in 1964 at in New York City at the Cherry Lane Theatre. It went on to win an Obie Award presented for Off Broadway productions. The play would be adapted by Baraka for the screen in 1966 with the same title. It was a British drama which starred Shirley Knight and Al Freeman, Jr.

Baraka's play centers on Clay, a black man and Lula, a white woman who are both riding the subway in New York City. Lula tempts Clay with an apple from her bag which alludes to Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden. Lula then guesses personal details of Clay's life based on her preconceived notions about black men like him. All of this stirs the anger deep within Clay that he feels from the generations of black men being oppressed by white men and women. He lashes out in anger, but decides not to kill Lula. This is when Lula steals Clay's life by stabbing him and demanding the rest of the riders to thrown him off of the train and to get off at the next station. This reveals the complicit nature of the majority of people in America who watch and participate in murder rather than to stop it.

Then, the narrative begins over again as another young black man gets aboard the subway car with Lula, who has a clean slate. The presumption is that she isn't dangerous because she is white, though we now know she has only moments before taking a man's life.

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