Vocabulary Words

Here is a list of words used in the play that are outdated or have significant meaning:

Averell Harriman
William Averell Harriman, 48th Governor of NY (1954-58), senate and presidential nominee, and Democratic statesman. Son of a railroad tycoon.

Baudelaire
Charles Pierre Baudelaire, major 19th Century French poet and essayist.

Belly Rub
Colloquial term for close slow dancing

Bessie Smith
Major African-American Blues singer in the 1920s-30s.

Charlie Parker
Also known as “Bird.” Highly Influential African-American Jazz saxophonist and composer (1920-1955). Became an important figure to the Beat Poets as he symbolized the artist as intellectual.

Dutchman
From carpentry: a short piece of material (usually wood) used in a repair to replace damage. In theatre carpentry it is a piece of material used as a joint to bring two pieces together and then painted over to make the effect appear seamless. Not to be confused with the Flying Dutchman, a legendary ghost ship that can never make port and is often a harbinger of doom.

Jewish Poets
Probably a reference to some of the Beat Poets, especially Alan Ginsburg, who was a friend of Baraka’s before he became militant and then again later in their lives.

Nigger
This highly offensive and racist term for Black people, African-American or otherwise, originates from Romance language words for black and can be traced as far back as the 1500s. The history of the word is complex, with several volumes tracing its origins and evolution. What is important to realize in the setting of the play is that while still pejorative, it was still commonly heard.

Ofay
Derogatory African-American slang term for white people, no longer in common usage. Origins of this term are unkown

Tenement
Technically refers to any rented home. Colloquially, this term has come to mean a run-down apartment or slum.

Uncle Tom
A derogatory term for an African-American who is subservient to white people. This originates from adaptations of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom (1852), in which the title character is lampooned and debased, as opposed to in the original novel where he is a more positive figure.