PAUL GREEN - IN ABRAHAM’S BOSOM – 1926
This is a short play but
essential and early in history, just after the fall of Marcus Garvey, that in a
way marks the beginning of the real movement that will bring final liberation,
even if it is not yet entirely fulifilled.
Abraham at the beginning is like
Marcus Garvey who is dreaming to capture knowledge in order to become the
leader of his race. But at the same time and when you look at the whole play
this Abraham is also a negative embodiment of Booker T. Washington who had had
the chance of studying some and then had worked like a normal simple black
person in poverty and toil for some boss in mines. And yet he got the chance
again of being supported by someone into creating a school that will be of
Paul Green follows a very dark
line. His character is full of anger against the world he sees as his limit,
his limitation, his prison in which he is locked up and unable to step out. He
wants to learn and then to teach, but he does not know that one is good at one
subject, learning or teaching, if one is also good at all other material
subjects and activities you as yourself and you as a member of a community need
to survive, hence to live, hence to be creative and become more creative with
the rising of your mind from these simple material activities and subjects. I
pity in a way – if I have time and energy to do so – someone who is only able
to intellectualize life into mental ranting and raving based on no real work,
experience, life in the dirt, dust, garbage and even manure of real everyday
He wants to be before becoming.
He wants to have before getting. If he is not becoming and if he is not getting
he accuses others, and particularly whites, even the whites who are his
benefactors, to be his enemies, those who prevent him from rising. His life is
thus a long sequence of failures. The first child of his who survives is indeed
the third one. The others die early or are not born alive. After that one child
he does not get anything at all as if his fertility had gone. He was a hot
rabbit before but once he has one little cub he stops playing the hot rabbit at
He gets the chance of being able
to teach, from the white man who is his father, who has raped, more or less, his mother, but in a way
he, spits in the hand of his own father and he tries to have some fight with
his own white brother. And he will beat a child under his responsibility in his
first school so hard, so bad he will be expelled from his first school and his
place of birth. Since he suffered he will make sure everyone suffers as much as
him from his own hellish derangement.
Then he roams from one place of
work to another and he is always mixed up in some violence, often at the
initiative of it, calling for that violence, causing strikes, riots, and so on
and being expelled from one place to the next to be expelled again.
His son is destroyed by this lack
of love and trust in life and the world. His father will beat him too often and
will in the end kick him out and away. That will cause his final downfall into
drugs, alcoholism, etc, though he has a musical talent that his father refuses
to see. This will be developed at length by James Baldwin later. Music is the
future for that young man and his own father destroys that future. I will say
that music is the future if not the essence of Black people in the USA, and this
Abraham does not even see it. He refuses that future because he is unable to
grasp the idea that the future is what you make it with your own hands and your
own talents, not with the demanded and forced help from others who owe you
nothing, or so little anyway, at least in their minds.
It sounds absurd but that is the
position of that Abraham: everything is supposed to be given to him because he
wants it and considers he deserves it, because the world and everyone in this
world owes him not one but at least a dozen. That attitude leads him to his
final devilish and criminal act: he kills his white half-brother. He is a new
Cain. He is cursed and doomed, just as he was from the very start. Is it
because he was a mixed blood, hence the product of the mixing of white and
black blood? The play seems to imply that and we must not forget that Marcus
Garvey in the same period met with the grand leader of the Ku Klux Klan to
share his racial purity theory with him since for Marcus Garvey racial mixing
was a crime against the race and the guarantee of failure of the race’s rising.
What is strange is that Booker T.
Washington was exactly like this Abraham, the son of a black woman more or less
taken if not raped by some white man who could have been anyone. Then this
totally failing under-human impersonation of Booker T. Washington seems to
imply there is no future and the leader is nothing but necessarily a martyr
like Markus Garvey.
The vision is bleak, black, dark,
sinister, etc. There is no end in that line of despair.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU