I repost this in light of Amiri Baraka’s death, at 79 years old, made public this afternoon…
Made in 1967, Dutchman is the filmed version of Amiri Baraka’s (he was LeRoi Jones when he wrote it) controversial one-act stage play. It won the Obie Award for best off-Broadway play, thrusting Baraka into the limelight.
It stars Al Freeman Jr. and Shirley Knight.
The story: A sinister, neurotic, lascivious white girl, Lula, lures to his doom, a young black man, Clay – a stranger she picks up in the subway. The man, who, at first, sees no reason to resist the girl’s advances, realizes too late that he is being used by her. He then drops his so-called “white” disguise, and launches into a counter-attack against the girl, and at whites in general, leading to its haunting, shocking conclusion.
To say much more would be to spoil it for those who haven’t seen it. Interpretations vary, so whatever you see in it, is what you see in it. Although I think Baraka’s intentions should be clear. It’s been at the center of many a discussion I’ve been involved in over the years, since I first saw it a decade ago.
Originally a 1964 off-Broadway play which both Freeman Jr. and Knight also starred in, Dutchman (the stage version) initially played to primarily white audiences, until Baraka moved it to a Harlem theater that he founded, in order to reach, and to educate his intended black audience. It was the last play produced by Baraka under his birth name, Everett LeRoi Jones.
At the time, Jones/Baraka was in the process of divorcing his white Jewish wife and embracing Black Nationalism. It certainly shows.
Freeman Jr’s performance was lauded. The play itself won an Obie Award.
Dutchman would later be adapted for the screen, with Freeman Jr. and Knight reprising their roles – a film we’ve featured on this site on more than one occasion, and will likely feature again in the future.
I will shut up now, and turn you over to Dutchman below. It’s about an hour long, split up into 6 YouTube parts.
A a creative and political force, Baraka was 79 years old at the time of his death, which came after he was placed in intensive care at Beth Israel Medical Center last month for an unknown reason. Baraka had long struggled with diabetes, but it was not immediately clear if that was the cause of death.