Hymn to the Rising Sun (1935)
by Paul Green
A one act play taking on the abusive treatment of prisoners, especially African-Americans, in the North Carolina prison system. The play is notable for Green for its unity of time, place and action: taking place in a continuous scene on a single morning in the convict stockade. The prisoners are terrorized by The Captain, the white Big Daddy on this plantation. A new prisoner, a young white man called Bright Boy, has found his way into this hellhole, tormented by the groans and cries of Runt, a black convict kept all night in a tiny box named Aggie. The captain is a terrifying yet subtle character with some great monologues. His command of the scene is absolute and is only challenged by the grave, yet realistically presented injustice that he embodies. At the climax, he whips the young white man mercilessly and Runt dies in the box. All this takes place ironically on Independence Day. If it were not for some problematic characterizations of African-Americans, this would still stand as a powerful piece of agitprop.