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Mulatto (1935)

Production still from Mulatto, ca. 1936

Langston Hughes (Playwright)

24 October, 1935 – 12 September, 1936

An American tale set two generations beyond abolition on a plantation in Georgia. Colonel Thomas Norwood is an old man who never remarried after the death of his young wife. His servant, Cora Lewis, a black woman now in her forties lives in the house with him and she manages the house and cares for his every need. Cora and the Colonel have had five children together, four of whom survived to adulthood. These mixed race children (called then “mulattoes”) have been educated and employed on the plantation, but are not acknowledged as family or heirs. Robert Lewis, the youngest at eighteen, worshipped his father until age eight when he was severely beaten for calling Colonel Thomas Norwood “Papa.” Since then he has been on a mission to get the Colonel to recognize him as a son. Robert will not use the back door, he drives the car without permission, and he refuses to wait for a white customer to be served when he has been waiting longer. His actions inflame the local community who threaten to lynch him. The action of the play culminates in a confrontation between the Colonel and Robert where the two men fight and Robert kills his father. The townsfolk come to lynch Robert, who runs, but circles back to the house with a gun. Cora tells her son that he is to hide upstairs and she’ll distract the mob. Robert uses the last bullet in his gun to shoot himself before the mob can hang him. (Source: ThoughtCo)

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