Looking White, Acting Black: Cast(e)ing Fredi Washington 1000
In October 1926 a leading African-American newspaper, the Pittsburgh Courier, featured adjacent photographs of two young women with a provocative caption: “White Actresses Who Open with Robeson and Bledsoe on Broadway during Week.” The actresses featured were Lottice Howell, starring with Jules Bledsoe in the musical play Deep River, and Edith Warren, starring with Paul Robeson in the drama Black Boy. In reporting this latest bit of integrated casting, however, the Courier was wrong on two counts. First, they misidentified the photographs, identifying Howell as Warren and Warren as Howell; and second, they misidentified Warren, whose real name was Fredi Washington, as “white.” Washington (who dropped the stage name during previews) was, by self-identification, Negro, or, in the language of the Savannah official who recorded her birth in 1903, “colored.”
1000 A playwright, director, and dramaturge, Cheryl Black is the author of The Women of Provincetown, 1915–1922 (2002) [reviewed in this issue—Ed.]. Her work on women's theatre and feminist theatre has appeared in The Journal of American Drama and Theatre, Theatre Studies, and in a number of edited anthologies.This study is part of a larger research project on women artist/activists during the Harlem Renaissance/“New Negro” era, funded in part by a grant from the Research Board of the University of Missouri and by the National Endowment for the Humanities.