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The Good Negro Recalls a Not-So-Good Past: Play Provides Intimate Glimpse of Early Civil-Rights Movement

The Good Negro photo 4[1].jpg
Damon Christopher, Phrederic Semaj, Austen Jaye (l-r) in 'The Good Negro' at the Stella Adler Theatre. | Photo: Ian Foxx
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In a bone-chilling portrayal of the early days of the civil-rights movement, Tracey Scott Wilson’s The Good Negro receives its West Coast premiere at the Stella Adler Theatre through Sept. 19.An intimate look at the early days of the civil rights movement, The Good Negro follows the lives of Rev. James Lawrence (Phrederic Semaj) and his cohorts Bill Rutherford (Austen Jaye) and Henry Evans (Damon Christopher) as they birth a movement in “the most segregated city in America”--Birmingham, Ala.--in the early 60s. The trio must overcome personal shortcomings, violence, fear, and apathy to forge a movement not only in the political arena but also in the court of public opinion. In an attempt to galvanize the people, they have decided to use the recent example of a woman, Claudette Sullivan (Theresa Deveaux), who was separated from her 4-year-old daughter and arrested when she allowed the little girl to use a whites-only restroom in a downtown department store. Meanwhile, the FBI has planted a racist redneck as an informant in the KKK, but seems more eager to obtain information to destroy the civil-rights movement through de-crediting its leaders than trying to minimize Klan violence.