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Posted on June 13th, 2012, by

The play Joe Turner’s Come and Gone by August Wilson is an overtly historical. It was produced at first in 1986 by the Yale Repertory Theatre. In United States it was published in 1988. This play represents the 1910 s. Joe Turner’s Come and Gone is the third in the Wilson’s ten-play historical cycle, chronicling the African-American experience in the twentieth century.

The play was inspired both by the 1978 Romare Bearden artwork, Mill Hand’s Lunch Bucket, and the blues song, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. This song was at first sung by many estranged black women who had lost their husbands, sons and fathers to Joe Turner – a plantation owner who illegally enslaved blacks in the early twentieth century.

In this case, the play concerns what life was like for African Americans in the 1910 s. Slavery, although, was technically illegal at this point. The notorious Joe Turner ignored the law and illegally impressed African Americans into slavery for seven years on his plantation.

Turner’s Come and Gone set in a Pittsburg boardinghouse in 1911. The play examines African American’s search for their cultural identity, following the repression of American slavery. The primary theme in the play is the search for identity. For Herald Loomis, this search involves the physical migration from the south to Pittsburg in an attempt to find his wife. Pittsburg was one of the many urban areas in the North that other blacks migrated to in the 1910 s.

They migrated there in an effort to flee the discrimination they faced in the South, while attempting to find financial success in the North. Heralds search for his identity, represented as his song, is unsuccessful until he has embraced the pain of both his own past and the past of his ancestors, and moved on to self sufficiency.

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