Blues for Mister Charlie Background

Blues for Mister Charlie Background

Blues for Mister Charlie was written by James Baldwin for an express purpose. That purpose was education: the education of white America on the subject of the black experience in America. The epicenter of that black experience was Emmitt Till, a 14 year old kid from Chicago whose murder by Mississippi rednecks encapsulated for Baldwin everything that was wrong with the way white American treated black America.

The Alleged Crime: Flirting with an older, white, married woman.

The Murderers: Two white men from Hicksville.

The Real Crime: A dozen “jury of Till’s peers” who acquitted the confessed killers.

Blues for Mister Charlie is an effective piece of protest drama set in the American south of Jim Crow and laughable justice for African-Africans. Emmett Till was murdered in 1955; Blues for Mister Charlie premiered at the ANTA-Washington Square Theater in the Big Apple in 1964. A lot had taken place between those two dates; the perception for white America was that thought much more had taken place than actually had. With this gap in perception in mind, James Baldwin set to work composing Blues for Mister Charlie. Just in case anyone in white America failed to notice that things really had not changed all that much over the previous nine years, he dedicated the play to the memory of Medgar Evers and his widow and children, as well as to the memory of the girls blown to smithereens by the bombing of a black church Birmingham by more white supremacists.

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