Home / Full timeline / The Free Southern Theater, a group that dramatized the concept of Black liberation, embarks on its first tour. Many viewed it as the beginning of a modern renaissance of Black culture.
The Free Southern Theater, a group that dramatized the concept of Black liberation, embarks on its first tour. Many viewed it as the beginning of a modern renaissance of Black culture.
The Free Southern Theater presented the play "If the Opportunity Scratches, Itch It," in Eutau, Alabama. It was the first time ever that live theater, other than high school plays, was performed in this predominantly Black farm community in central Alabama. The occasion also marked the first time since 1969 that the Free Southern Theater had taken a show on tour, although this was its original purpose when it was established in 1962 as a cultural arm of the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The Free Southern Theater was viewed by some as the beginning of a modern renaissance of Black culture that grew out of the civil rights and Black consciousness movements of the 1960s and 1970s. The idea of a theater to dramatize the concept of Black liberation had spread rapidly across the country, and most cities with a sizeable Black population had some form of organized cultural activity. They included: The Fire Company in Birmingham, Alabama; the New African Company, the National Center of Afro-American Artists and the Museum of Afro-American History in Boston, Massachusetts; the Ku Mba Workshop in Chicago, Illinois; the Karamu House Theater in Cleveland, Ohio; the Rapa House in Detroit, Michigan; Opera South in Jackson, Mississippi; Bodaciouis Buggerilla; the Mafandi Institute and the Performing Arts Society in Los Angeles, California; the Black Theater Troupe and Umba Ujaama in Phoenix, Arizona; and the Kahero Cultural Gallery of Richmond, Virginia. The aim of all of this activity was to allow Blacks, who felt that they had been generally left out or misrepresented in America's cultural media, to interpret their own history, thought, ideas, strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations. In addition to theater, Blacks were engaged in community writing, dancing, directing, designing, sculpturing, singing, and photography. In interviews with the New York Times in February 1975, Kenneth E. Snipes, executive director of the Karamu House Theater, and Gilbert Moses, one of the founders of the New Orleans-based Free Southern Theater, assessed the new movement. According to Snipes: “Blacks have more needs for certain kinds of programs to provide them with a sense of self-worth, more of the things that are appreciative of Black people. There is a need to appreciate Black people, to appreciate the role of Blacks in the history of this country, to appreciate the work of the Black playwright or what the Black dancer is doing today to eventually attain self-worth and self-esteem.” Moses added that “it was more important that we develop our own artists, our own image. It had to happen.”