Saturday, July 4, 2015
WPA Theatre: "Created Equal" and the "opposing forces of materialism"
(A WPA Theatre performance of "Created Equal." Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum and the New Deal Network.)
The Declaration of Independence, adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..."
The play "Created Equal" was written by John Hunter Booth. In the play's script, Hunter wrote the following to anyone who might direct a production of his play:
"Created Equal presents a broad canvas and demands a corresponding directorial attack. It cannot be approached as a mere dramatization of historical incidents; it must be viewed as an attempt to portray the birth and growth of the American spirit, "a spirit born of vast plains, towering mountain ranges, mighty rivers. Resistless, unconquerable!" Something fresh and new in an old, old world - our country's contribution to human advancement. Not a painted or printed masterpiece, but a living, glowing idea of freedom to make man his brother's equal. The conflict this engenders with the opposing forces of materialism is the play. Sympathetic handling is required to point the proposition, which stated briefly is as follows: The Declaration of Independence promised equality. The Constitution established a propertied class. Amendments to the Constitution are slowly fulfilling the promise of the Declaration."
(A crowd of black and white Americans gather together to see a WPA Theatre production of "Created Equal" in Boston, ca. 1935. This type of racial integration, which occurred on stage as well, eventually motivated Congress to cut off funding for the WPA Theatre program, terminating it in 1939 even though millions of Americans were enjoying it. Photo provided courtesy of the National Archives and the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.)