Amiri Baraka is known for his drama, poetry, and founding of the Black Arts Movement. His works Dutchman and The Slave are considered companion pieces in Black America’s “consciousness epic.” At the time of their staging and publication, Baraka was still known as LeRoi Jones and had yet to publish his revolutionary and artistic credos and manifestos.
Baraka wrote Dutchman in less than twenty-four hours and first staged it in 1964 in New York City at the Cherry Lane Theatre. It flummoxed mainstream critics, with Newsweek saying, “while Dutchman is indeed powerful and violent, so is an aircraft carrier, which is not by those tokens a work of art.” The New York Times mused, “If this is the way the Negroes really feel about the white world around them, there’s more rancor buried in the breasts of colored conformists than anyone can imagine. If this is the way even one Negro feels, there is ample cause for guilt as well as alarm, and for a hastening of change.”
Dutchman went on to win an Obie Award for Off-Broadway productions. Baraka also adapted Dutchman for the screen in 1966 with the same title, starring Shirley Knight and Al Freeman, Jr.
In 2007, the play returned to Cherry Lane with Dule Hill, and in 2013, artist Rashid Johnson staged the play for Performa at the Turkish and Russian bathhouses.
The Slave was first presented in December 1964 at the St. Mark’s Playhouse in New York City.