Theater: Revival of “In White America” 1963 Drama

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Art McFarland and Martin Duberman discuss “In White America.” Photo: Jonathan Slaff

A rare  New York revival of “In White America,” the 1963 Drama Desk Award winning documentary play about the history of Blacks in America from slavery through the Civil Rights Movement will be presented by Woodie King Jr's New Federal Theatre  at the Castillo Theater, 543 West 42nd Street, from October 15 – November 15.  This limited Off-Broadway engagement will have opening night on October 29.

“In White America,” written by historian Martin Duberman, utilizes letters, speeches, journals, songs and personal accounts to create a 400 year old tapestry of race relations in America. Historic figures like Nat Turner, John Brown, W.E.B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Woodrow Wilson expound on race in America. This is the play’s first New York City performance in 50 years. The original Off-Broadway production starred the late great actors Gloria Foster and Moses Gunn, who also appeared in many notable New Federal Theatre plays.  Charles Maryan, the director of this production, stage managed the original Off-Broadway show. “In White America” has scenic design by Chris Cumberbatch, costume design by Gail Cooper-Hecht, lighting design by Shirley Prendergast and musical arrangements by Bill Toles.  The cast is Art McFarland, Blair Baker, Ezra Barnes, JoAnna Rhinehart, Bill Tatum, Shane Taylor and Bill Toles.

“I am producing the 50th anniversary production of Martin Duberman's ‘In White America’ because it is so timely. It’s like watching history repeat itself.  The play actually shows that American history and African American history are really one story,” said Woodie King, Jr., the founder and director of the New Federal Theatre.  “‘In White America’ is a historical journey from colonial America up to the landmark Brown Vs. The Board of Education in 1954. The play is drawn from historical records; original recorded stories by former slaves. The play's major theme is the quest for freedom and equality - a theme that is deeply integrated in the 46-year history of New Federal Theatre.”

Duberman grew up in White America. While he was an American history professor at Yale and Princeton during the 1950s and 1960s, he got involved in the budding counterculture movement and became an advocate and activist for left wing causes. A noted  historian, playwright, biographer and gay rights activist, Duberman earned a B.A. from Yale in 1952 and a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1957. He is the author or editor of twenty books and has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. In the 1990s, he became the founder and executive director of CLAGS at CUNY’s Graduate Center, the first university­-based research center in the United States dedicat­ed to LGBT studies. Today, he is a pro­fessor emeritus of history at Lehman College and CUNY’s Graduate Center.

“‘In White America’ - which opened some 50 years ago--should be a relic, but unfortunately isn't. I wrote the play to provide historical background for the civil rights struggle then in progress. Given the state of race relations in this country today, that history remains all-too-relevant,” explained Duberman.  “Yes, there's been progress, but as recent events have made all too clear, black lives still matter much less than white ones. It isn't only police shootings and harassment, or prejudice in job applications and promotions, or jail sentences for minor infractions. It's also the continuing high level of residential segregation that in turn continues to make our schools just about as segregated as they were in the past.” Veteran ABC journalist McFarland, whose many characters include Frederick Douglass and Father Devine, strongly believes that “In White America” is even more relevant today.  “From the Charleston, South Carolina massacre to the Baltimore riots, the Ferguson riots and beyond, it is clear that stains of slavery and the consequences of racism are, unfortunately, alive and well,” he stressed.  “The play reveals a poignant template for these national ills.”

“In White America” is funded in part by the Ford Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts/a State Agency; NYC Department of Cultural Affairs/New York City Council Committee James Van Bramer, Chairman; Lucille Lortel Foundation, Shubert Foundation, Louis and Anne Abrons Foundation, Normandie Foundation, 42nd Street Development Corporation, InterPublic Group, Denzel & Pauletta Pearson Washington, Xerox Foundation and contributions from other corporations, foundations and individuals.

“In White America” is performed from Thursday – Saturday at 7:30pm and Saturday and Sunday at 2:30pm.  Tickets are: general admission $40 and seniors/ students $30. Group sales are available.

For tickets,  please visit  or call toll-free 866-811-4111. For more information, please visit





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