Childress, Alice

Childress, Alice,

1920–94, American playwright and novelist, b. Charleston, S.C. She moved (1925) to New York City and was raised in Harlem. Childress joined the American Negro Theatre in 1941, and acted in many of their productions and in a number of later stage works. Her first play, Florence, was produced in 1949 and, like many of her works, deals with racial issues; Childress was adept at portraying both black and white characters with sensitivity and compassion. She was the first black woman to have a play produced professionally on the New York stage (Gold Through the Trees, 1952). Other plays include Trouble in Mind (1955, produced 1971), Wedding Band (1962, produced 1969), Wine in the Wilderness (1969), Sea Island Song (1977), and Moms (1987). Childress is probably best known, however, for A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a Sandwich (1973, film 1978), a young-adult novel about an adolescent drug addict. She wrote other young-adult novels and several adult ones, e.g., Like One of the Family (1956) and A Short Walk (1979).


See study by L. V. D. Jennings (1995).

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Harris presents an overview of the history of Africa as a rediscovered homeland in the African American literary imagination from the Harlem Renaissance to the present, only to accuse writers as diverse as Nikki Giovanni, Gloria Naylor, Paule Marshall, Octavia Butler, Alice Childress, Alice Walker, and Toni Morrison of not only exploiting Africa for their own creative purposes but also of sinning against Africa in their efforts to bridge the gap between the African and American sides of their personal and collective identities.