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Wed, 02.26.1930

The Green Pastures Debuts on Broadway

*On this date in 1930, The Green Pastures debuted on Broadway. This is a play written in 1930 by Marc Connelly adapted from Ol' Man Adam an' His Chillun (1928), a collection of stories written by Roark Bradford.

The play was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1930. It had the first all-black Broadway cast. The play and the film adaptation were generally well-received and hailed by white drama and film critics. African American intellectuals, cultural critics, and audiences were more critical of white author Connelly's claim to be presenting an authentic view of black religious thought. In the 21st century, it could be a form of cultural appropriation.

The play portrays episodes from the Old Testament as seen through the eyes of a Black child in the Great Depression-era Jim Crow south, who interprets The Bible in terms familiar to her. Following Bradford's lead, Connelly set the biblical stories in New Orleans and an all-black context. However, he diverged from Bradford's work in enlarging the role of the character "De Lawd" (God), played on stage by Richard B. Harrison

The Green Pastures also featured numerous Black spirituals arranged by Hall Johnson and performed by the Hall Johnson Choir. The cast also included singer Mabel Ridley. The chorus included torch singer Eva Sylvester and members of the Sylvester family as cherubs. Connolly later collaborated with William Keighley in the direction of a Hollywood film adaptation of the play, made in 1936. The play was adapted for live television and presented twice on the Hallmark Hall of Fame in 1957 and 1959.

Both productions starred William Warfield as "De Lawd," in the largest dramatic acting role he ever had on television. In the UK, a radio adaption was produced in October 1945. The first UK television version was broadcast by BBC Television in 1958, starring William Marshall as De Lawd.

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