Theater: Uncle Tom Exhumed

Purlie Victorious (by Ossie Davis) peoples a Broadway stage with Negro characters that the N.A.A.C.P. has long claimed do not exist. Here is a cottonpicking Uncle Tom (Godfrey M. Cambridge) who hymns the supposedly subservient spirituals and cringes, hat in hand, before the white man ("You dah boss, Boss"). Here is the bighearted, yuk-yuk-yukking Southern mammy (Helen Martin). Here is the corn-pone simpleton (Ruby Dee) who says things like "Indo. I deed." Here is the unlicensed preacher hero, Purlie Victorious Judson (Ossie Davis)—a liar, a braggart, a trickster, and the self-appointed messiah of...

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