Marc Connelly's The Green Pastures play was one of the longest running dramas in Broadway history. Responses to the play by blacks and whites demonstrate its contested nature. Whites generally lauded the drama for its simplicity and its childlike depiction of black religion in the rural South. African Americans, though hopeful that its all-black cast would lead to more opportunities for blacks on stage, were divided between a general appreciation of the extraordinary display of talent by its actors and worries about the implications of a play that seemed to idealize the rural South as the natural environment of carefree overly religious blacks. Connelly's widely popular drama became a site of cultural debates about the significance of black migration to the urban North, the nature and importance of religion in black communities, and the place of blacks in the nation. Precisely when black social scientists were urging rural black Christians to abandon an otherworldly and emotional religion, white dramatists and literary artists were making more widely available what they saw as a picturesque and deeply rooted aspect of black folk culture.
- ©© 2008 by The Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture